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Running 1,204 Miles for Youth

Jeff McLean and Linda Headley set their sites to Cincinnati in a quest to raise money for the youth of Raton


Raton, New Mexico - It was January - a year into their efforts to open a Youth Center in a small, economically-struggling mountain town in the rural Southwest - and Linda Headley and Jeff McLean were feeling frustrated with their progress. McLean, a running enthusiast, decided that training for a Marathon might help him gather focus. The Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati was to take place on Cinco de Mayo, providing ample time to train. Headley decided she would run in the 5K the day before the Marathon. A friend from Raton, now living in Cincinnati, offered a place to stay. An adventure was beginning to take form and a spark of inspiration would soon ignite into something much bigger.


While the two were making plans, McLean excitedly approached Headley with an idea. Instead of a “road trip”, what if they were to use the journey to Cincinnati for something greater; something that would generate public awareness and community engagement with ZIA Youth? With their fledgling organization struggling to gain traction in the areas of growth and funding, McLean made himself a heavy wager: He’d make the entire journey to Cincinnati on foot. With Headley following and ensuring his safety and health in a support vehicle, they decided this was their chance to bring a year of planning to fruition.


“A core value of ZIA Youth is fostering empowerment in the youth of our community,” said McLean. “Our hope is that by successfully completing an impractical, absurd, self-made goal for the benefit of a cause we believe in, Linda and I can generate empowerment within ourselves, so that we can radiate that which we seek to cultivate.”

The team plans to inspire and encourage youth in their community to believe that anything, even a 1,200 mile hike, is possible. In addition they plan on blogging their journey to Cincinnati - presenting stories of funny and trying moments, photographs, videos, and fun facts about places traveled through - to raise awareness for their entity and also inspire others to do what is often hard, all while helping fund a vital organization in a community where it is indispensably needed.

The journey, slated to last 43 days, with an average of 28 miles on McLean’s soles daily, will commence on March 22nd. McLean and Headley’s community, energized by the team’s ambition, has scheduled a public send off that morning at the local coffee hotspot, Enchanted Grounds, where the community will be able to take part in McLean’s extraordinary journey by joining him for the first mile or so.

"Raton is a place of such natural and human-made beauty," says McLean. "My feeling is that a lot of people who have lived here through the town's struggles have a tougher time seeing this beauty than an outsider such as myself. Linda and I aren't educators, so we hope to curate a collaborative atmosphere where various members of the community and youth can share skills and knowledge. We want to offer diverse perspectives to allow our youth to consider all these things critically and make informed choices about what they value for themselves. We want to cultivate this critical thinking, along with curiosity, compassion, creativity, and communication skills. We view these 'five C's' as the keys to empowerment.”


You are encouraged to spend the morning of March 22nd with this incredible team. You can find the details for location and time below. Also, if you are interested in following their journey, you can read all about it at: www.ziayouth.org/1204-miles-for-youth