OGDEN — Thanks for your kindness, Utah, but no, Greg Hamblock does not need a ride.
The dusty, roadside jogger has spent six weeks running from Washington state and plans to keep going until he hits Miami in October.
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“More than half the days I have been out, someone has pulled over to ask if I am OK or want a ride, or if I need food or water,” said Hamblock, 25.
“In Snowville, I told someone I could use some water. He gave me two gallons and a bunch of peaches, and he cut a watermelon and told me I should stay with his family members when I got to Denver. It was like 10 minutes and we were best friends.”
Hamblock, in Ogden on Tuesday, is running for a cause. He hopes to raise $60,000 for his new, nonprofit foundation, Perspiration for Chris and Megan’s Education.
The foundation’s sole goal: to pay for a better education for a homeless brother and sister, now 8 and 5, whom Hamblock met three years ago while volunteering in a disadvantaged school district in Baton Rouge, La.
“Chris was in a group of kids I was playing games with,” said Hamblock, whose gray-green eyes and white teeth provide a startling contrast to his deeply tanned skin.
“At the end of the day, his mom came up with Megan and asked if I could come back again next week because Chris didn’t have any positive males in his life.”
Hamblock kept coming back, and gained respect for the struggling family: The mom, two older daughters, Chris and Megan, both smart, precocious, and curious about the world.
Hamblock worried about the kids going to overburdened public schools, and he shuddered at hearing a local junior high school teacher’s stories of attending three student funerals, all gang related, in a single school year.
But Hamblock’s volunteer term ended, and he had to get on with life. The Montana native moved to the Seattle area and took a job as a bellman at Embassy Suites. It was steady work, but after a couple years an old friend from Montana made an observation.
“He told me I could be doing something bigger with my life,” Hamblock said. “He encouraged me to find something more meaningful. He could tell I was not living fully.
“I asked myself if I had all the money in the world, what would I do? And the answer was I would put these two kids in a school that would help them get the right start in life.”
The woman who ran his volunteer project highly recommended a local K-12 private school. The $60,000 Hamblock hopes to raise would cover more than four years for both children. When those funds run out, he hopes to be able to pay their tuition on his own. Hamblock pays his trip expenses with his savings, which were $4,000 at journey’s start.
Hamblock said he understands that sending two kids to private school isn’t as media-friendly a cause as cancer or autism.
“So I am hoping people will be moved by my story, and what I am doing to reach the goal.”
For more information on Hamblock’s project, visit www.indiegogo.com/perspiration4education, or follow his journey on Facebook, at www.facebook.com/#!/Perspiration4Education.
Hamblock was never much of a runner before he started on July 1.
“The first two weeks my legs really hurt and my ankles got really big,” he said. “It was hard to walk, but now I am running about 30 miles a day. My legs are stiff, but it’s not debilitating.”
He’s wearing down his second pair of sneakers, which he hopes to replace in Salt Lake City before running east to Denver. He transports his basic supplies in a hunter-orange jogging stroller. He listens to music on his MP3 player and tries not think too much about “fate and life stuff” because weighty topics tend to slow him down.
He wants to keep moving forward, toward his goal.
“A good education would make a world of difference to those kids,” he said. “I just feel like if these kids aren’t well-educated, society will be robbed of some pretty remarkable individuals.”