Photo Credit: SUSAN MATHENY/MADRAS PIONEER - Adam Meyer and Ashley DonovanTwo runners on a cross country trek from Portland to Washington, D.C., stopped off in Warm Springs and Madras Aug. 6 and 7, to talk to community leaders as part of their mission to collect successful ideas along the way.

Adam Meyer of Portland and Ashley Donovan of North Virginia began their four-month, 3,000-mile “Run to Connect” effort from Portland on July 28, and hope to reach Donovan’s home in Virginia by Thanksgiving.

Donovan just completed her doctorate in theoretical chemistry from Princeton University. In 2009, she earned a teaching award from the university’s department of chemistry for her work in teaching general chemistry. A ballet student through high school, she received a scholarship to study at the Joffrey Ballet and other dance schools. She also enjoys running recreationally and competitively.

An athlete and active community member, Meyer has volunteered as an emergency medical technician, taught outdoor education to youth, and worked on legislative policy issues in the Oregon State Legislature.

In Washington, D.C., he focused on transportation, energy and community issues through his work at Transportation for America, America Walks, and other groups. He has a Bachelor of Political Science from Willamette University.

“We’ve been averaging 20 miles per day, and would like to push it to 30 as our bodies adjust to the routine,” Donovan said.

They are being backed up by support driver Richard Meyer, Adam Meyer’s father, who's navigating “Rex,” the 1988 RV they just bought for the excursion. “It’s all we could afford,” Meyer noted.

So far, the RV's given them extra time to talk to local people, since they had to take a three-day break for engine, electrical and plumbing problems.

Meyer ran track while at the University of Oregon, loves running and said he has an adventuresome spirit. “I had the idea of running across the country in the back of my head and mentioned it to Ashley and she said maybe we could make it happen,” he related.

“I’ve been a student forever and just finished a few weeks ago,” Donovan said. While working at a teaching and learning center at Princeton, something troubled her. “I saw kids entering with a lack of learning and problem-solving skills,” she said.

Meyer was also bothered that in his past jobs, the focus always seemed to be on what’s wrong with communities. “I wanted to see what is working, and the positive things policies and leaders have done – like the bottle bill,” he said of Oregon’s bottle recycling bill.

“We decided the run could also be a way to interact and reach out to people. A way to combine our missions and ideas,” he said.

He said their purpose is to talk to community leaders, including firefighters, police officers, educational, political and church leaders. “My grandfather was a Methodist minister in Oklahoma,” he mentioned.

“Through Run to Connect, I’m searching for ways to connect individuals, support communities, and encourage improvements to our public systems,” he said.

Donovan particularly is interested in school district issues and talking with teachers, parents and students about school policies. “My focus is on listening to hear perspectives and see if there are regional, or local issues, or if national systems need to be addressed,” she said.

A blog on their website, shows photos of people they’ve met and records the progress of their trek. In Warm Springs, they talked to Delford Johnson at the auto repair shop, met with Louis Pitt and Randy Scott at the tribal administration office, and were given a tour of the outside of the Warm Springs K-8 Academy by Urbana Ross.

In Madras, Mayor Melanie Widmer was away at a mayor’s conference in Pendleton, but they were able to communicate with her by email. They stopped off at the Madras Pioneer office after a run to Prineville, and toured Madras on foot. Camping near the Madras Municipal Airport, they checked out the hangars and Erickson Air facilities there.

The pair said they would love to have other runners join them for a few miles, and notify town leaders a week in advance of their arrival, but their schedule has been in flux and they are still working the kinks out. It’s hard to run and also do all the notifications, they said.

There is a questionnaire on their website people can fill out to help them locate who to talk to as they jog across America. It also asks people to list things they are proud of in their community.

“I’d love, at the end of this, to put a number of ideas together that really stand out and share them with the communities we’ve gone through and others,” Meyer said, noting the publication would say, “Here are a dozen proven ways that people have done great things in their communities.”

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