Jackson Adams Daily News
Effingham Daily News
---- — Benjamin Timoner of Albuquerque, N.M., passed through Effingham Friday on a path to walk across the country and bring attention to the leading cause of cancer death.
Timoner began a journey Jan. 2 to walk from Santa Monica, Calif., to Jones Beach in New York. He is 2,000 miles into the trip and plans to reach the East Coast in eight weeks, completing his second walk from ocean to ocean in memory of his father, who died of pancreatic cancer. He is on a mission to raise money to fund research for a disease that has only a 6 percent survival rate.
"It's in honor of my father, Bert, who died when he was 41 in 1974," Timoner said. "It's always difficult, but it's what I need to do to honor my father and fight for all the people that are going to face this diagnosis. If I could save one person or if one person could spend six more months with their family, it's all worth it. Now that I'm 43, I realize how young 41 is and it kills me that my dad only lived to be 41. It's tragic. There's no rhyme or reason to it. If we could find early detection, we could save a lot of people."
Timoner said he lived in fear he would succumb to the same fate as his father.
"Having my father die when I was so young, I lived under this cancer specter that I always thought would come for me and I would probably only have about 41 years also," he said. "So I woke up one day and said 'you're here, you made it,' and I consider the rest of my life sort of a bonus. I'm surprised to be here, and I wanted to do something good."
Timoner emphasizes the walk isn't about him but the devastating disease and the good he could do to help it. He takes donations from anyone who is interested in helping, either in person or on his website at bjwalksamerica.com and gives them to the Lustgarten Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit organization that is funding research to fight pancreatic cancer.
"Once I'm on the road every dollar goes to the charity," he said. "I never wanted to look at a dollar and feel guilty about buying a soda and saying this money could have gone to the foundation. I have a strict rule about donations I receive on the road and everything goes to Lustgarten."
While not asking for support has left Timoner sleeping in a tent by the side of the road, on a well wisher's couch or on rare occasion in a donated or comped hotel room, it has allowed him to give sizable donations to the Lustgarten Foundation. At the end of his first walk in 2011, he was able to donate $26,000 and so far, he's collected nearly $16,000 on this trip.
"It's going to take time and going to take a lot of effort, but we're going to change it," he said. "Sadly, we're looking to change the survival rate to 12 percent, and it's not a lofty goal, but it's a first goal, and we're going to get it done. I'd like to be an old man in my rocking chair some day and say, 'remember when we beat pancreatic cancer.' That would make my whole life worthwhile."
Jackson Adams can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 131, or email@example.com.