TERRE HAUTE —
His skin a dark brown from long hours in the sun, B.J. Timoner trudged along U.S. 40 through the Wabash Valley on Tuesday, making his way — by foot — to the east coast.
Timoner is walking across the United States from coast-to-coast for the second time, a total of more than 3,000 miles this trip, alone. His goal for Tuesday was to walk from the Indiana/Illinois state line to Brazil, about 20 miles. Timoner has already crossed vast western deserts, apparently endless southwestern plains and flowing hills through middle America.
The inspiration for this second walk is the same as his first: to raise money for pancreatic cancer research through the Lustgarten Foundation, a New York-based not-for-profit dedicated to the fight against the fourth-most deadly form of cancer.
“Every penny counts,” Timoner said during a stop at the Tribune-Star. “You never know which dollar is going to be the one that pushes one more researcher into the field.”
For Timoner, the struggle against pancreatic cancer is personal. His father, Bert, died from the disease at the young age of 41, when B.J. was just 5 years old. The same disease killed Timoner’s grandfather, his great aunt and a first cousin, he said.
Always feeling he was living on borrowed time, Timoner marked the day he reached the age at which his father passed away by making last-minute preparations for his first cross-country trek, which started in late 2010. He completed the 2,800-mile walk about one year later, slowed by some mid-trip health problems. This year, he hopes to make an even longer journey in half the time.
That first walk raised $26,000, and Timoner’s goal this time around is to raise four times that amount. So far, he has raised $16,000, he said.
Five-year survival rates for pancreatic cancer, which kills about 43,000 Americans annually, are “abysmally low,” Timoner said, noting they are in the single digits. Early detection is key, but difficult, he said, adding the real key is more research and more awareness among patients, doctors and those controlling cancer research dollars. Currently, pancreatic cancer receives only a tiny portion of cancer research funding, he said.
Donations can be made to B.J.’s walk directly through his website at www.BJWalksAmerica.com or on the Lustgarten Foundation website at www.lustgarten.org. Cablevision pays for all administrative and staffing costs at the Lustgarten Foundation, so every penny of every donation is used for research, Timoner noted.
The most difficult part of walking from coast-to-coast is just the physical toll it takes on your body, Timoner said, adding that he plans to walk back across America this year after concluding his current journey, making him one of just five people to make such a trek three times. But what matters most, he said, is the possibility of saving lives from the disease that has taken so many, including many in his own family.
“The best part of this is knowing I’m doing something important,” he said.
Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or firstname.lastname@example.org