Southfield native Zachary James set off on a four-month for-charity cross-country run to raise $15,000 for the nonprofit Compassion International. (compassionrun.org)
Zachary James isn’t comfortable sitting by as others suffer.
The 23-year-old Eastern Michigan University graduate believes the solution to the world’s ills is found within each person.
“There are some many things that seem to be going wrong but I think we can change that,” said James. “I have pretty big dreams. I want to change the world for the better.”
That’s why on Tuesday, the Southfield native set off on a four-month for-charity cross-country run to raise $15,000 for the nonprofit Compassion International, which sponsors more than 1.4 million children in 26 countries.
As of Saturday James was running through Nazareth, Pennsylvania and has raised nearly $1,600. James said his next stop is Northampton, Pennsylvania.
His plan is to run 33 miles a day through 11 states, finishing at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco Nov. 1.
James has 19 sponsors donating equipment ranging from gear to extra parts for his modified stroller, which will carry supplies.
“I am really just going to wing it. I have done my best to plot out which cities I will be in each night,” he said.
He will use Couchsurfing.org, a website that links travelers with people willing to open their homes to them. But if he can’t find a place to stay, he has another option.
“I have a tent, so maybe I’ll camp behind a church or go knock on someone’s door and ask, ‘Can I camp in your backyard?’” said James.
The Southfield-Lathrup High School alum said he took up running three years ago. He said he learned about opportunities to raise money for Compassion International and was intrigued. After researching the Christian nonprofit, James decided to sponsor children through the organization.
People like James are instrumental to Compassion International, said spokesman Tim Glenn.
“It always amazes me that there are people out there who care so much about somebody living on the other side of the planet that they are willing to run across the county ... do whatever it takes to make sure that others in the world are fed, have access to clean water, access to health care, and the nutritional and educational opportunities that they need,” said Glenn.
Judith Kullberg, political science professor at Eastern Michigan University, has known James for three years. James, who majored in international affairs, took several classes taught by Kullberg.
She said she was impressed by James’ academic record as well as his commitment to do good.
“He’s not content to accept the fact that there are hundreds of millions of people in the world who are struggling to survive,” said Kullberg. “He just doesn’t understand, he won’t accept it and doesn’t think that anyone who’s alive should.”
Following his run across the nation, James will go aboard for the Peace Corps.
But for the next four months, he’ll enjoy seeing America and meeting people along he way. To keep him motivated, he said he listens to music sent by friends and utilizes two other necessities.
“Motrin, that helps, and I pray through it. I ask God for help,” he said.
To track James’ progress or to donate go towww.compassionrun.org/donate.