There have been some unique ways of raising money for charities, but Nikolas Toocheck’s way has spanned the world around.
Toocheck is on a mission to run seven marathons across seven continents, which he has figured to be roughly 1 million steps. His goal? To raise $1 for every one of those steps for Operation Warm, a charity that gives new coats to kids in need in the United States.
But wait, was it mentioned he is only 10-years-old?
“When I thought of the idea to run the marathons, I was doing something I love in running and raising money for Operation Warm at the same time,” Toocheck said. “It’s the perfect opportunity.”
Toocheck has called it “Running the World for Children” and has a website where people can track his progress and donate to the cause.
As of Jan. 22, he has raised almost $30,000, which translates into about 1,500 winter coats for kids.
The Hillendale fifth grader has already accomplished four continents. As of February, he has completed marathons in North America, South America, Australia and Antarctica – twice, actually.
He has plenty of memories from each race, including running with penguins in the snow to running with kangaroos in the outback.
“It was all ice and snow, but some spots were dirt and rock,” Toocheck said of Antarctica.
Each trip to another part of the world is completely self-funded and Toocheck never uses the money he has raised to get him to the next leg of the journey.
”One hundred percent of the money he raises goes straight to the charity,” said Dan Toocheck, his father. “I buy the plane tickets.”
Toocheck has been running since he was 6-years-old and did his first marathon at the age of 9 at Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware.
He does all this without the use of a trainer or coach and instead trains with his dad, who is an experienced marathon runner, by just, well, running. They have different paths and trails they take around where they live and name them.
The best one? The donut run. And it’s not a circle, it’s a run to Northbrook Orchards to grab a donut and run back home.
His father also is by his side during the marathons as they run each one together. And these are not the typical, run-of-the-mill 5Ks either. The father-son team do 42Ks, or 26.2 miles, each time.
For being so young and participating in these long marathons, he can easily be noticed.
“It’s cool how I’m running the race and people are running by and saying good job,” Toocheck said. “It’s really cool having that feeling that everyone is looking out for you. I’m really glad everyone is doing that.”
Everything he has done so far hasn’t gone unnoticed. His mom, without telling him, submitted his name to the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. The award is given every year to 102 students – two from each state and District of Columbia, one from middle school and one from high school.
It just so happened Toocheck recently received a letter stating he was the recipient of the award for Pennsylvania.
“I’m reading this and go, ‘Whoa, I just won this? I’ve never even heard of this,’” Toocheck said. “I was amazed that I just won the award without even knowing it was submitted.”
For winning, Toocheck will receive $1,000 and an engraved silver medallion, plus an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C., where he will have a chance to win another $10,000.
With as committed as he is to his cause and Operation Warm and showing generosity far beyond his age, he immediately donated all $1,000.
Toocheck has been helping out with Operation Warm for as long as he can remember. His grandfather started the charity in 1998 and to date, they have distributed 1.2 million coats to children in 41 states.
His next marathon and continent is set for June 29 in Victoria Falls, Africa, and the goal is to have all seven completed by next year when he’s 12.
“At this point, he’ll be the youngest person to ever do it,” Dan Toocheck said. “We have at least a few years to get that done.”
As a parent, it’s hard not to be amazed at what he can accomplish at such a young age, but then also to be doing it all for charity.
“That’s the more gratifying part on our end that kids that are receiving winter coats are his age,” Dan Toocheck said. “If everybody could make a little bit of an effort, it can make a big difference. Hopefully that’s something he can carry with him.
“He’s proving that you don’t have to be big or old to make a difference.”
Visit Toocheck’s website to donate to his cause at www.nikrunstheworld.com.