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Iowa man runs in every county to bring strength to himself and kids fighting cancer

Published: Aug. 19, 2020 at 12:08 AM CDT
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DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) -Every day in 2020, Rik Zortman has gone running. “I do believe I’m closing in on 1300 miles for the year” said Zortman. When Rik is running, his mind is at ease. “It’s basically my way of therapy”.

In 2009, Rik’s three-year-old son Armstrong died of brain cancer.

“For three weeks, I was just kind of struggling with life like I didn’t understand why God would take my son”.

Losing Armstrong sent Rik to a dark place. After a heated argument with his ex-wife, Rik pleaded guilty to misdemeanor domestic assault causing bodily injury in July of 2019.

“We had gotten into a disagreement, and she started throwing clothes down the steps and basically told me to leave and I had slipped on the clothes that she had thrown down the steps and I had hit her from behind and knocked her down a couple steps”.

Rik just completed his year of probation. “I’ve been in a dark situation, you try to figure out how do you get away from a dark situation, how do you get out of a dark place”.

Ever since losing Armstrong, running has been helping Rik out of the darkness.

“I was asked to run a couple weeks after he had died and I was never a runner and the local community was like we’re doing a 5K and kind of help with expenses, would you be willing to come out and run?”

Rik became a runner and 3 years ago, he got an idea that would forever change the course of his runs and his life.

“I did Armstrong with the name spirit and said this is what I want to do”.

Using a gps run tracking device on his phone, Rik spelled the name of his son.

“Running is kind of my way of coping with things and at the same time I’m trying to think about what would my son be like if he was still alive because if he was still alive, there’s no way I’d be doing this because it all started with him”.

After running Armstrong’s name, Rik began running the names of other kids fighting cancer. Rick has ran over one thousand names, and recently, he ran for Lynsey Stevenson, a Pleasant Valley freshman fighting Leukemia.

“I got really excited once my mom told me I could do it and I was like oh my gosh this is gonna be so awesome” said Stevenson.

“She loves to run and now she’s bound to a wheel chair now and she can’t run and so now I feel like I’m running for her” said Zortman.

With his run for Lynsey, Rik finished a mission to run a name in all 99 of Iowa’s counties.

“This is the 99th county that he’s ran and it’s the last one in Iowa which is kind of cool to say that I was the last county that he’s running and it’s the 99th”. said Stevenson.

With every name, there’s a story.

“I have to take a lot of meds so I feel pretty sick most of the time” said Stevenson.

With every run, there’s healing.

“I’ll be thinking about her and how well I can do her name” said Zortman.

Healing not just for Rik, but for the hundreds of names he’s making known.

“I just want to thank Rik for doing this for me and I really appreciate it” said Stevenson.

For information on Rik Zortman’s mission and how he can run a name for you, just visit his website.

Copyright 2020 KWQC. All rights reserved.

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