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Jeff Kolpack, Published August 05 2013

49-year-old Hoedl running for a reason

Fargo - The fundraising seed was planted about 15 years ago when Lee Hoedl decided to get serious about running again. What started as a stem in the name of fitness has mushroomed into a forest of funds for kids in need.

It is now the beginning of August in 2013, and Hoedl’s mileage log book that started about 14 years ago shows he’s run over 25,000 miles. His donation portfolio is over

$40,000, with $25,000 coming from various runs and $15,000 from proceeds from his book sales.

As the credit card commercial goes, the value from doing it: priceless.

“If you’ve run long enough and if you have gone far enough, you have to ask yourself why are you doing this?” Hoedl said.

Why is he doing it?

For starters, his father, Leo, died at the young age of 54, most likely from heart-related failure. The father of 15-year-old Leo and 9-year-old triplets Emily, Hannah and Nicholas, he wanted to do his best to see the possibility of grandchildren.

Lee, a Perham High School and North Dakota State graduate, turns 50 in December.

“I have four years to pass that milestone,” he said.

Why is he doing it?

There’s a calling, he said, to raise money for children’s causes. At the Boston Marathon, for instance, he partook in a “patient partner” program that matches runners with children. Hoedl was assigned six years ago to E.J. Spellman, a young boy inflicted with a brittle bone syndrome that has caused over 300 breaks.

Lee recently got a card in the mail announcing his graduation from elementary school. Those types of stories are commonplace.

“It’s part of our life, it has to be,” said his wife, Diann. “He’s been such a good role model for kids and really, we get a lot more in return. It keeps you focused and centered.”

In 2011, Lee, taking cue from the Roger Maris fundraising campaigns, completed a personal “61 for 61” quest, where he ran 61 half marathons in a year to raise funds for a children’s hospital. This year, the plan is to run 31 half marathons in 16 weeks as a tribute to the 31 victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut as well as the Boston Marathon bombing victims.

Those funds will go to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the regional Dakota Medical Foundation Lend A Hand initiative. He’s also heavily involved in a Dakota Chapter for the national “Medals for Mettle” program, which aims to get runners to donate their marathon, half marathon or triathlon finisher medals to children.

The 31 half marathons will not all be advertised races – he estimates about 75 percent will be. He’s latched on to the social media “virtual race” concept, where an organizer will send out the specifics of a run. A runner programs them into a GPS unit, has two weeks to do it and then sends the file or some type of self-reporting mechanism back to the organizer.

“I’ll send out a Facebook message saying ‘anybody doing a virtual half marathon?’” Hoedl said. “I’ll get all these messages back. I’ll send in my $25 and they’ll say tell us when you’re done.”

As an eighth-grader in Perham, he was on the school’s first-ever cross country team.

In a sense, the trail blazing continues.

Why is he doing it?

Perhaps every day brings a new reason.

“It’s what I’m passionate about,” he said.

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia