Blind grandpa restores faith in humanity

Last week I watched an internet video of a big New Jersey woman, identified by police as Latia Harris, severely beating a young, much-smaller mother as the victim’s son kicked at the attacker.

The video went viral because the several people around decided to video the attack instead of stop it. The only honorable person in the whole encounter was the little boy, whom Harris threatened to beat up, too.

The mom suffered a broken nose, a concussion and several contusions to her face. The video, though, didn’t affect my faith in humanity one bit.

That’s because earlier last week I met David Kuhn.

Kuhn is running 11,000 miles around the country trying to raise $500,000 for the fight against cystic fibrosis. David’s 12-year-old granddaughter is fighting the disease, and her grandfather wants to do all that he can do to make sure she lives as long as he does. (Donate here)

“I’m just a scared grandpa,” David says, explaining why he is taking on the journey that has him running 20 miles per day.

Kuhn is going from city to city on a Greyhound bus. He stays alone at each location several days while he puts in his miles around town as he circles the United States.

Oh yeah, David is also blind. The former truck driver was involved in a crash caused by a drunk driver when he was 29. The crash caused him to slowly lose his vision, and now he is completely blind.

Instead of being bitter about the losing his eyesight, Kuhn has embraced it. He said he used a poker analogy when talking himself into a positive attitude shortly after learning of his situation.

“I told myself ‘I’ve won with bad hands and I’ve lost with good hands,'” he says. “This is the hand I was dealt.”

During the week he was in Butte, I got to have a few long conversations with David, who depends on guides or rides to and from a track at each place he runs.

I ran with him on the trail along Blacktail Creek, and I ran with him along the trail by Silver Bow Creek near Rocker. I also ran a few laps around the Charlie Merrifield Track with David and my 6-year-old son who was excited to run with the amazing man I told him about.

David Kuhn and Grady Foley, 6, talk as they run on the Charlie Merrifield Track.

I took David for his first pork chop sandwich, and we sat and talked for an hour as we shared stories.

I made him laugh with stories about the days before I gave up drinking, and he told me about how he learned how to read Braille at the same time he was remodeling his garage.

He says he holds no ill will toward the drunk driver who caused the crash that led to his blindness, and he means it.

“He didn’t wake up that day looking to hurt somebody,” David says.

David talks about the “perks of being blind.” One is that his journey has helped him see the humanity in the world.

Kuhn, who ran the Boston Marathon the last three years, will take a “vacation” from his journey that will take 18 months to two years to run the New York City Marathon. Another “vacation” will be to compete in a full Ironman in Wisconsin.

An Ironman, by the way, is a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run. That is superhuman with 20/20 vision.

I didn’t think I was even going to be able run 5 miles with David because I had a blister.

Then, David’s friend Renee Kopulos told me via email that David also had a blister. He told Renee he hopes my blister is on the right foot, like his, so we can limp in sync.

With that, I had no excuse. How could I not run through my blister — on my right foot, no less — when a guy at the beginning of an 11,000-mile journey was running through his?

Whether it is Sudah Davis, the young Butte girl who can run like the wind on two prosthetic legs; Matt Long, the New York City fireman who became an Ironman after being run over by a bus; or David, there is nothing better than the people who can eliminate all your excuses without saying a word.

Seeing Sudah, Matt or David run two steps will give you a lifetime worth of inspiration.

With David, though, it is more than inspirational. He is also doing this for a much-needed cause.

Cystic fibrosis is a nasty disease that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. While the disease terrorizes its victims, their parents and grandparents, it apparently doesn’t affect enough children to make it a money maker for the pharmaceutical companies.

That is why raising money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation is so very important. Without it, we would have seen far fewer medical advances in the fight against the disease. (Donate here)

David isn’t running for himself. He isn’t even running just for his granddaughter. He just might be running for your child or your grandchild. He could very well be running for my grandchild.

Hopefully you had the chance to meet David when he was in town. If you will be in Bozeman or Billings this week you still can.

Believe me, you will never forget it if you do.

Sure, there might be a million people out there like the woman who beat up that young mother and the despicable people who didn’t stop it and they’re doing their damnedest to make this world a bad place.

It still isn’t enough to overcome the good of one David Kuhn.

—Bill Foley, whose summer vacation will not include an Ironman, writes a column that appears on on Tuesdays. Email him at Follow him at 1 comment

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  • erin
    July 2, 2014, 11:16 am

    I do like this article. It’s amazing. One thing though, while talking about faith in humanity the author also slams pharmaceutical companies for not working on cystic fibrosis. Cystic Fibrosis is a genetic disease and therefore, right now, it’s uncorrectable. In other words, we are at the point of research where we can target the symptoms but we cannot cure the disease. A cure would entail being able to replace broken or missing genes in every cell in the lungs. So perhaps instead of accusing companies of wanting to make huge profits why don’t we have faith that the minute we are capable of curing this disease we will.
    Thanks, Erin
    (a government funded disease researcher)


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