One out of four children in America grow up without learning how to read. There are several individuals who are doing something about this epidemic, but there is one man in particular that is striving for a better future. His name is Dennis Yang.
Yang, child author from Long Beach, California, is putting one foot in front of the other to bring awareness and raise money for his charity organization, Papa Didos Ideals Foundation. His 11,000-mile journey, also known as the Great Reading Run, first began on August 25, 2014.
This is his second Great Reading Run. His first one took place four and a half years ago, as he ran 3,582 miles cross-country, from California to New York.
This time, he is running along America’s perimeter, stepping foot in 35 states. Yang runs roughly a marathon a day, and burns nearly 7,000 calories per day.
He is currently on his three hundred eleventh day, and is on the third stretch of his journey, on his way back to Santa Monica, California.
Thus far, Yang has run 5,853 miles, and has raised $7,944.24 of his $1,000,000 goal.
The money will go towards the printing of his next six children’s books ready for publication. To date, Yang has written and published 110 children’s books.
His passion for storytelling first began during his economic downturn years ago. Yang was unable to see his adopted son, so he would write him letters to keep in touch. His letters were not like typical pen pal letters, but rather, they were stories that had underlying themes with different values.
Yang wanted more. He wanted to share his message with other children – children all over the world.
During this rough patch in his life, writing books was not enough for him. He turned to fitness, and began to run. And run. And run.
“I learned that the more I ran, the more creative I felt. Since I began running more, I was able to write a lot more. I used my writing and running to spread the message to children that goals can be achieved. As long as you take small steps every day, you will get to the destination you want to reach,” Yang said.
Along his journey, Yang has stopped by orphanages, children’s hospitals and schools to hand out stickers and copies of his first five books. He also gives motivational speeches to children about the importance of reading, staying healthy and setting and reaching goals.
His is accompanied by Crystal Love, who books hotels for them, raises funds for his trip and drives a truck with a trailer with hundreds of copies of each of his first five books.
“One of my favorite things is being able to see the United States. This is my first time out of California, so it is fun to see what the rest of the country is like,” Love said. “Dennis loves what he is doing and wants to keep doing it. Although some days can be a struggle for him, he wants to show children that they can accomplish any goal.”
The trip has not always been easy. Yang has been caught in inclement weather, and has faced times of discouragement.
“Of course there are obstacles, but when you see the kids and their reactions, everything is worth it,” Yang said. “The key to solving so many of our problems is literacy. It is not only reading, but how we understand the world around us. I want to help children expand their imagination and understand the world better.”
On July 19, Yang was an honorary guest at a welcoming party, held by Trace Ostergren and his family. They have hosted him since he entered La Porte on Friday.
“Four years ago, I was informed that a man was running across the country and needed somewhere to stay. I let him stay at Serenity Springs, but under one condition: when he gets to our property, he has to run in. My staff and I cheered him on as he came in, although he was exhausted. The day Dennis had to leave, my son, Trace, ran to Plymouth with him as he left La Porte for the next stretch of his journey,” Laura Ostergren said. “They have been friends ever since, and it is great having him back.”
This celebration, open to the community, had food, music and a question-and-answer presentation about his trip thus far. Yang also gave away some of his children’s books, and personally signed them for children. This was only a small portion of what he does for today’s youth.
Yang hopes to have his journey complete by February of 2016. Follow his day-to-day itinerary, donate money and purchase books at his website, papadidos.org.