Don Stevenson, also known as the Pacing Parson, is marking his 80th birthday with a 1,000-mile benefit and awareness walk for the Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA), a nonprofit group dedicated to extending and improving the lives of those affected by pulmonary hypertension (PH). The PHA is asking the public to support Stevenson in his efforts.
Stevenson, a former U.S. Marine and retired pastor from Auburn, Washington, has covered 500 miles so far but raised only a modest $50. Using a walker and carrying an oxygen tank, requirements for people with the disease, Stevenson walks an average of 20 miles each day across western Washington.
He started his trek on Jan. 4, his 80th birthday — and two weeks before a close friend and the woman to whom he dedicated the walk, Dorothy Fitch, died of PH complications.
PH is a type of high blood pressure that affects the arteries in the lungs and the right side of the heart. It begins when tiny arteries in the lungs become narrowed, blocked or destroyed, compromising blood flow through the lungs, and raising the pressure within the lungs’ arteries. As the pressure builds, the heart’s lower right chamber (right ventricle) must work harder to pump blood through the lungs, causing the heart muscle to weaken and eventually fail. Without treatment, the average survival of patients with PH is of 2.8 years after diagnosis. But treatment can be delayed, because the disease is often misdiagnosed as asthma or another lung disease.
“We are grateful that the Pacing Parson is so caring and passionate that he is taking such measures to bring more attention and funding to help us fight PH,” said Rino Aldrighetti, the PHA’s president and CEO, in a recent news release. “PHA is a national nonprofit that relies on donations to fund its many programs, including the nation’s largest PH patient and caregiver support group network, lifesaving early diagnosis awareness and education programs, specialty care resources and research to find ways to prevent and cure PH.
“As we celebrate our 25th anniversary this year, we hope people will find it in their hearts to support the Pacing Parson in his fundraising journey.”
For 12 successive years, the PHA has earned a four-star, highest rating from Charity Navigator, placing the association in the top 1% of all rated charities for transparency and fiscal accountability.
Stevenson earned his Pacing Parson moniker for participating in several charity walks. In September 2015, he finished a 3,000-mile cross-country walk that took him from Washington State to Washington, D.C. Over the course of that four-month trek, he raised nearly $10,000 for the PHA.
Stevenson is walking six days a week, excepting Sunday, and hopes to complete his latest charity walk in mid-March.
To help him and the PHA, please follow this link — www.O2breathe.org/FightPH16 — and click on the name “Don Stevenson.”