An adventurous newspaper editor from California is walking 3,300 miles across the country, in hopes of giving others a second chance to dream.
Mike Tittinger walked through Pueblo Monday on his coast-to-coast trek that will benefit transplant patients and their families. His long journey began on June 18th at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco and will end in Ocean City, New Jersey, which is his wife’s final resting place.
Tittinger says going about three miles an hour, walking nearly 20 miles each day, he expects his journey to last about six months.
His cause is what gives his motivation to take each step. It’s one that is dear to his heart. Ten years ago, his young wife Deanna died after a failed heart transplant. Not only does he put on foot in front of the other in her memory, but also in support of patients and their families who endure the same trials.
By trekking across the United States, he hopes to raise awareness about organ donation. Tittinger says walking down Highway 50 in Pueblo reminded him of a saying, “One organ donor can save eight lives and can change 50."
But his main goal is to raise money for a scholarship fund he created in his wife’s memory. He hopes it will not only help patients across the U.S., but also their families.
“A transplant really affects the whole family, everyone around the person having the transplant; everyone puts their lives on hold. So I hope the scholarships will give them a second chance to live, which is a second chance to dream,” said Tittinger.
He adds, “So if they get to the point where they can pursue the goals that they put off then I want to be there to help them do that.”
Tittinger’s non-profit organization is called “The Onny and Oboe Scholarship Fund”. It’s named after the twin imaginary friends his wife had as a child. They kept her company when she was sick. At age 10, she was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a congenital enlargement of the heart. She was not expected to live past her teens, but surpassed doctor’s expectations and married Tittinger at 27.
“Something in me, I just felt I needed to do something. I always wanted to go back and do something to help similar people with conditions like that. It’s ten years, I turned 40, and it was just like all the signs pointed to go,” said Tittinger.
Tittinger plans to award the scholarship annually to those who persevere with resilience and optimism, overcoming great odds. He hopes to raise $25,000, in order to make it nationally endowed. Tittinger says walking coast to coast seemed like the perfect way to further the cause.
“Walking kind of symbolizes a heart patient’s road to recovery. It’s just day in, day out, it’s a long journey. It’s gonna take me six months, so I just saw that as symbolic of a patient’s road to recovery. They can only do their best each day, and not get ahead of themselves, it’s a long process. That’s why I chose to walk,” said Tittinger.
He told 11 News that many people along his journey have been very helpful and have reached out to help with the cause, whether by donating, or offering him a place to stay.
He says the hardest part is not the physical aspect, but the mental one. He says eight hours of walking a day can be wearing not only your body, but your mind. It’s something bringing him new perspective on life, teaching him to be present in the day and to always stay focused on the positives.
But Tittinger did not start this journey alone. He is now happily remarried and his second wife Brooke walked with him for a few weeks, along with other family members. Tittinger says Brooke has been his motivator, helping him create the scholarship fund and go on this long journey.
Tittinger says this emotional journey is one he sees as a “celebration, not a memorial.”
If you would like to follow his journey, or donate to his cause, visit www.mikeywalks.com.
Tittinger says all donations to the fund go 100 percent towards patients and their families and are tax deductible.