Puyallup: News

Pacing Parson completes cross-country walk for pulmonary hypertension

Don Stevenson started walking after nearly 30 years of working for Dairygold Dairy, and decided walking to benefit charities would be a good way to get both exercise and to help others.
Don Stevenson started walking after nearly 30 years of working for Dairygold Dairy, and decided walking to benefit charities would be a good way to get both exercise and to help others. Staff photographer

Don Stevenson was just starting to pen his first book as a newly retired man.

Stevenson thought in order to keep his mind fresh, he ought to get out and make a routine of walking more frequently.

One thing led to another, and Stevenson decided he wanted to walk across America at 62 years old.

“I thought, ‘Oh sure, you’re going to walk across America,” said Loretta, his wife of 32 years. “But the closer it got, I realized he was actually going to do it. I thought I should get ready.”

Stevenson’s first walk was in 1998 after he retired from a 28-year career with Darigold. The walk was in an effort to raise money and awareness for Alzheimer’s, a disease Loretta’s father had suffered from for years.

“Loretta’s dad died from Alzheimer’s,” Don said. “I did my first walk from Seattle to Portland, Maine for the cause.”

Now 17 years later, and at 79 years old, Stevenson just completed his 20th big walk for charity.

This time, his walk from Auburn to Silver Springs, Maryland raised awareness for pulmonary hypertension (PH), a high blood pressure disease that affects the heart and lungs.

As a pastor of seniors at Bonney Lake Nazarene, one of his parishioners, Betty Mayfield, asked if he would walk for her and those who suffer from PH.

“He started walking to keep a commitment to a senior who had the disease,” Loretta said. “He kept the commitment.”

For 12 hours a day, or roughly 30 miles, Stevenson put one foot in front of the other and pushed on to raise money and awareness for PH suffers.

“I pray, sing, think of new sermons,” Stevenson said about what he does to keep himself entertained during the walk. “It’s a good time to solve a lot of your problems.”

Stevenson’s favorite part of his walks is helping others.

“It’s the most rewarding feeling,” he said. “To be able to serve others with compassion and sincerity. Peaceful people are those who think of others. Those who think of themselves are the most miserable.”

Loretta follows her husband in the couple’s Ford Focus, often driving miles ahead to greet Don for a pit stop with water or to secure them a spot to stay for the night.

“God took care of us,” she said. “He’s protecting and providing for us ... we got a lot of free lodging and meals.”

Often, people would stop and join Don for small portions of his trek. One of those who joined Don for a walk was Gary Pederson, a Puyallup resident and a PH patient. Pederson and the Stevensons originally got to know each other through Mayfield, who has since lost her battle with PH.

Since Stevenson completed his walk on Sept. 12, it’s estimated the Pacing Parson has raised $10,00 for the Pulmonary Hypertension Association.

To honor Stevenson’s fundraising efforts for the PHA, the Puyallup Valley PH support group will host him at a luncheon Saturday (Oct. 17), with check-in beginning at 11:30 a.m. at the Puyallup United Methodist Church, 1919 West Pioneer Avnue in Puyallup.

The meeting will include a victory lap, where folks can walk with Stevenson and others. The walk begins at 12:45, followed by a lunch and an auction at 1 p.m. The event is open to the public.

Puyallup Valley Pulmonary Hypertension Support Group hosts Don Stevenson, the Pacing Parson on Saturday (Oct. 17) as part of a fundraiser at 11:30 a.m. For more information, contact Gary Pederson with the Puyallup Valley PH Support Group 253-223-1612 or garypeders@comcast.net.