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by Terri Hogan
Senior Staff Writer
A Laytonsville man set out on April 15 to accomplish something that most people would find insurmountable.
Michael Devlin, 27, of Laytonsville is running from San Francisco to New York City to raise awareness and funds for Project ALS.
He is accompanied by his brother, Joey, 23, who is tasked with many roles — chauffer, planner, videographer, motivator and all-around wingman.
They expect to make it to Times Square in about 100 days.
As of April 26, Michael had completed Day 10 of his trek, and had entered Nevada. He had run 227 miles and raised $15,413.
Michael Devlin, a graduate of Boston College in 2011, Our Lady of Good Counsel High School in 2007) and St. Peter’s Catholic School, is running in memory of his grandmother.
Edna Devlin, a resident of Flower Valley, died three years ago after a brief battle with Bulbar Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
The progressive neurodegenerative disease causes muscle weakness, paralysis and ultimately respiratory failure.
The disease robbed Grandma Devlin of her ability to speak, and Michael said if there was one thing she had known for, it was talking.
“It was terrible to watch,” he said. “It was quick and aggressive — I hadn’t seen anything so malicious before.”
After becoming a little burnt-out after working in the financial industry in New York, Michael decided to do something meaningful before he starts graduate school this fall.
“I tried focusing my energy on endurance sports, but I just couldn’t shake that experience with my grandmother,” he said. “So, I decided to combine that passion with helping to find a cure for ALS.”
He is partnering with Project ALS (www.projectals.org), a non-profit organization devoted to finding and funding a cure for the disease.
Valerie Estess, director of research for Project ALS, said the organization agreed to support Michael because of his complete confidence, determination and ability to make a difference.
“When we met him it felt like he had been doing this his whole life,” she said. “He had done his homework so thoroughly, so it was a no-brainer.”
Every dollar raised by Michael will go to ALS research. He and Joey are self-funding all their travel, transportation and meals. Their transportation is via a minivan, purchased for them by their proud parents, Mike and Kitu.
A New York Times article by Jen A. Miller, published Aug. 11, 2016, quoted Jim McCord of Cincinnati, who has been tracking those who have made cross-country runs on the “USA Crossers” Facebook page. At that time, he stated that there had only been around 300 crossers since the first recorded crossing on foot in 1909, and that “thousands more people have climbed Everest than have run across the country.”
Michael Devlin is documenting the trip through social media.
“This is crazy and ridiculous — two goofy brothers who saw a way to potentially make a difference,” he said. “But we don’t want people just to ‘click here to donate,’ we want them to become vested in what we are doing and use our story to start a conversation.”
As he crosses the country, Michael plans to connect with people suffering from ALS and their families. He welcomes anyone who wants to join him for a portion of the run.
“While this seems like an impossible journey to overcome, we know it is nothing compared to the victims and families suffering from ALS,” he said.
To follow Michael and Joey’s trek or to donate, go to http://alsprojectrun.com or follow them on You Tube, Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram.
Terri Hogan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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