Auburn walker makes stop in Kent; walking to raise money for severely ill Kent boy

Don Stevenson has walked more than 40,000 miles for a variety of charities over the last dozen years. But Stevenson rates his current cause as one of the most worthy of all.

Auburn resident Don Stevenson

Auburn resident Don Stevenson

Don Stevenson has walked more than 40,000 miles for a variety of charities over the last dozen years. But Stevenson rates his current cause as one of the most worthy of all.

Stevenson, 74, of Auburn, expects to walk 1,200 miles by the end of September to help raise money for Cullen Steele, his 10-year-old Kent friend.

Steele is fighting the effects of severe idiopathic arterial pulmonary hypertension – an incurable, life-threatening disease that does not allow the proper blood flow between the heart and lungs. Steele is anticipating a possible double-lung and heart transplant because of the disease.

“I’ve done a lot of walking,” said Stevenson, as he took a short break Aug. 25 along the West Valley Highway in Kent during a 30-mile roundtrip walk from his Auburn home through Kent and Renton. “This is one of the most worthy causes I have ever walked for because I’m more in touch with the one who has the need. Cullen’s a good little kid and he wants to be a benefit to the community.”

Stevenson met Steele and his family two years ago through the Make-A-Wish Foundation shortly after doctors diagnosed the young boy with the disease. Steele got his wish to meet President Bush in October 2008.

Stevenson walks to make people aware of Steele’s case and to raise money through the Indiana-based Children’s Organ Transplant Association, a nonprofit group formed in 1986 to help families pay for transplant-related expenses. Stevenson wears a fluorescent green vest when he walks that says he is walking 1,200 miles for COTA.

“Every once in a while people ask me what COTA is,” Stevenson said about his walks. “It raises a little bit of awareness for COTA.”

Stevenson started walking for Cullen July 6. He tries to average 20 to 30 miles per day, but doesn’t always get out every day to walk. He has about 270 miles left to reach his goal of 1,200 miles. He has walked most of the perimeter of the state and plans to walk to Seattle or maybe as far as Everett from his Auburn home.

“I usually take secondary roads and trails,” he said. “I’ve given myself plenty of leeway. I hope to be done by Sept. 22 so that gives me plenty of time.”

Stevenson and other volunteers for Steele plan to raise $75,000 to help cover the boy’s medical costs. Steele attends Auburn’s Holy Family Catholic School in Auburn, where he is a fifth grader this fall.

Steele wears a backpack pump that feeds him medicine through a chest tube every six minutes. The medication helps. Doctors hope they can hold off a transplant for Steele until he is at least 12, Stevenson said.

“The older he is the better chance he has to fight off rejection,” Stevenson said.

Despite the disease, Steele enjoys life as a 10 year old. He went swimming this summer for the first time in two years and enjoys history, cooking and playing video games.

The young boy also appreciates all of the support from Stevenson and others in the community.

“A lot of people want to help me,” Steele said in a July 16 Kent Reporter story. “And that makes me feel better.”

The inspiration of Steele motivates Stevenson.

“I decided to walk for him because he’s the sweetest little kid and he’s as smart as a whip,” Stevenson said.

How you can help

• Contributions: (online); (mail) 2501 W. Cota Drive, Bloomington, Ind., 47403; (e-mail) Donations may be made in person at any Wells Fargo Bank branch location using account number 3523561722

• Volunteers: Those who would like to help with fundraising activities for Cullen Steele can contact community coordinator Amy O’Donnell-Riley at 253-333-1755 or

• Information:, 1-800-366-2682

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