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Running for Kylie: Man runs across U.S. raising funds for cystic fibrosis research

Assisted by Hannah Greeno, 11, David Kuhn runs along the track Sunday at Rollie Greeno Field in Jamestown. Kuhn is running 11,000 miles across the United States to raise money and awareness of cystic fibrosis, a hereditary life-threatening disorder affecting the lungs and other organs.Kari Lucin / The Sun

David Kuhn may not be running for his life, but he is running for the lives of the 70,000 people worldwide who have cystic fibrosis.

Kuhn, who is blind, embarked on an 11,000-mile, 18-month run in May, raising money for and increasing awareness of the illness affecting his granddaughter, Kylie, 12.

“I’m 62. I want to extend my granddaughter’s lifespan as long as I can,” Kuhn said Sunday at Rollie Greeno Field in Jamestown.

Kuhn’s route will take him from Seattle to Bangor, Maine, to Jacksonville, Fla., to San Diego, Calif., and finally, back to Seattle.

Because of the impracticalities of a blind person running along a highway, typically Kuhn travels to a location, finds a runner guide there and runs along a scenic route or track.

The guide runs alongside Kuhn, with a short knotted rope between them, and warns Kuhn of any upcoming obstacles or changes in the path’s surface. Kuhn can generally see contrasts up to a few feet ahead of him, but that’s it.

“I run marathons all the time with the same method,” he said.

But every mile Kuhn travels — generally by bus or by car — he also runs, stopping in many cities along the way for pictures and publicity for his cause.

“So far I’ve done 50 miles here (in Jamestown),” Kuhn said Sunday afternoon.

He will be running in Jamestown until Tuesday, said Nellie Degen, who is helping Kuhn coordinate running guides while he’s in town.

On Sunday that was Hannah Greeno, 11, who was in town visiting family along with her father, Gregg Greeno.

Gregg, son of the late Rollie Greeno, just happened to run into Kuhn.

“I saw ‘blind runner’ (on his shirt) and he told me the whole story,” said Gregg, who now lives in St. Michael, Minn.

The cross-country trip hasn’t always been an easy one for Kuhn, of DeKalb, Ill., who lost his eyesight gradually after being struck by a drunk driver when he was 29. On his way from Seattle to Jamestown he’s gone running in the rain many times, with the aid of a poncho, but the most draining experience was actually the wind in Dickinson, N.D.

“My eyeballs felt like they dropped out in the dirt, and someone put them back in with a hammer,” Kuhn recalled.

Then there was Butte, Mont., where the weather changed with every lap he took.

Kuhn still soldiered on, though, on behalf of his granddaughter, Kylie, an energetic girl who loves crafting.

According to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the illness primarily affects the lungs and digestive system. It’s caused by a defective gene that causes a buildup of thick mucus in the lungs, pancreas and other organs. Often, the mucus clogs the lungs, causing breathing problems, and even traps bacteria in the airways, causing infection, inflammation and lung damage.

Meanwhile, the buildup of the mucus in the pancreas prevents the body from proper digestion and absorption of nutrients, potentially leading to malnutrition and poor growth.

There is no cure for cystic fibrosis, but there are drugs, therapies and treatments for those who have it, and researchers are continuing the search for more effective treatment — and a cure.

So far, Kuhn has raised more than $3,400 for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, a nonprofit headquartered in Bethesda, Md., that funds CF research.

To donate to the foundation, visit Kuhn’s blog,, and click on the “Make a Difference! DONATE” button on the right side of the page.

People can also donate to help Kuhn along his trip, but should note those donations are not tax-deductible — and that he prefers donations to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Kuhn said he will also need a ride to get to Fargo — his next stop — on Wednesday. And he still needs more running guides in Jamestown. To volunteer to run with Kuhn in Jamestown, call Degen at 320-5440.

For more information, visit Kuhn’s blog or his Facebook page,

For more on cystic fibrosis, visit

Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be reached at (701) 952-8453 or by email at