Nik Toocheck, 9, West Chester, Pa.

Family Health
on April 12, 2012

“One boy, one million steps, one dollar at a time.” This phrase sums up 9-year-old Nik Toocheck’s ambitious mission to run a marathon on all seven continents in order to raise money for needy children in the United States. The goal will take Nik to all corners of the globe, from the frigid glaciers of Antarctica to the sweltering African desert—no small feat for a 9-year-old boy, but one that Nik is adequately prepared—indeed, excited—to conquer.

The youngster, who has been running competitively since he was five years old, relishes the challenge. “After my ninth birthday, my family and I were having a conversation about running in extreme climates—deserts, snow, things like that. That’s when I came up with the idea to run a marathon on every single continent,” Nik explains.

A few weeks later, Nik launched his philanthropic campaign, “Running the World for Children,” which is organized around his mission to run the globe while raising money for charity.  Every single dollar raised by Nik’s campaign goes towards Operation Warm, a non-profit organization founded by Nik’s grandfather that donates winter coats to underprivileged children

“I chose Operation Warm because my grandfather started it,” Nik says. “I think about all the kids out there who don’t have coats to warm them. I want kids to have coats so that they can go to school and play outside.”

If completed, Nik’s around-the-world marathon tour will take him one million steps to finish. He aims to raise a dollar for every step, for a total of $1 million in donations to benefit Operation Warm.

It’s a cause that the youngster is truly passionate about. “He found his special way to give back, a way to take something he loves and help people,” says Tara Toocheck, Nik’s mother. “It’s an amazing thing to watch him. He’s so happy. He loves what he’s doing.”

Nik concurs: “I’ve always loved running,” he says. “I just love it. I go running with my dad five days a week. It’s fun.”

Nik kicked off his campaign with his first marathon on December 1st in Lewes, Delaware. On February 27, he competed in the White Continent Marathon in Antarctica. “It was really fun and really cool. I got to run alongside penguins and sea lions,” Nik says.

Nik’s love for running was inspired by his father, Dan, who runs with him every step of the way. “They cross the finish line together, holding hands,” Tara says. “It’s a very special thing for them to be able to do together.”

Found in: Family Health