Column: Editor runs 100 miles to raise money for refugees

Brooklyn Park Community Editor Jonathan Young runs to raise funds for Burmese refugees. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Young)
Brooklyn Park Community Editor Jonathan Young runs to raise funds for Burmese refugees. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Young)

When I run a 5K, here’s what typically happens:

At first it feels effortless, and I think it will be easy.

About halfway through the run, I begin feeling fatigued.

“Oh good, I’m half done,” I say to myself, followed immediately by, “Oh no, I have to do that much again.”

By the end my chest is heaving, sweat is soaking through my shirt, and I want to collapse and die. I can’t, of course, because I have to walk it off so I don’t cramp up.

Once I recover, I admit, I usually feel great.

Still, running is difficult for me. That’s why I chose to run 100 miles between Memorial Day and July 13. I wanted to do something challenging to raise awareness of the needs in one of the most war-ravaged places on the planet, the border between Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) and Thailand.

It wasn’t my idea, and I’m not alone.

I’m one of many partnering with Cedar Valley Church in Bloomington, as well as Burnsville-based nonprofit Venture Expeditions and Feed My Starving Children.

I made my commitment after hearing Venture’s president, Ryan Skoog, speak at Cedar Valley.

Skoog and his family traveled to the border of Thailand and Myanmar, where he said millions of refugees live in squalor, victims of a civil war that has lasted 63 years.

Skoog has visited 42 countries, but what he saw in Myanmar shocked him.

“It’s one of the most devastated places with the least amount of work that I’ve seen,” he said.

That was largely because the Burmese army forbade organizations such as the Red Cross and Salvation Army from entering the country.

During his trip, Skoog asked people along the border how his organization could help. They told him if they didn’t have to worry where their next meal was coming from, they could begin rebuilding their lives.

“The idea is moving from survival to developing,” Skoog said.

Venture decided to try to get food through Thailand to the border, and Feed My Starving Children agreed to donate the meals.

No one had ever brought relief food through the port of Bangkok, Thailand, Skoog said. In fact, four organizations working in the region long-term told him it couldn’t be done.

The first shipment took months to get through the port and required a Venture representative to fly to Washington, D.C., to get a signature from then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Eventually the food got through.

Soon Venture got a call from the World Hunger Alliance asking how it had succeeded.

“We told them it was a miracle,” Skoog said.

Venture has now shipped more than a million meals to the border, and it’s raising money to ship about 3.2 million more meals to the Burmese refugees. Feed My Starving Children is donating the food, and it costs about 10 cents a meal to ship.

To cover shipping costs, Venture is doing a campaign called “Run for the Border” this summer.

A few crazies are running 100 miles in four days in July and asking donors to sponsor them. Other runners will go a shorter distance on “Border Day” July 13 or have made commitments to run a certain number of miles before then.

The idea is not only to raise money, but also to participate in a way that’s more difficult than simply writing a check. It’s making a personal sacrifice to inspire yourself and others.

For me, running 100 miles is a greater challenge and sacrifice than just donating money. I’ll put up with the sweat, soreness and time commitment because this is a worthwhile cause.

What cause do you believe in? Have you sacrificed anything for a cause recently?

To learn more about Run for the Border go to To support Jonathan’s 100 mile run to feed Burmese refugees, go to

Contact Jonathan Young at [email protected]