Taking the scenic route

Alumnus runs 1,200 miles for charity


Brian Quevedo, Writer

In 2001,  an ambitious 27-year-old man named  Tim Wambach, an NEIU alumnus, met a 12-year-old boy who would end up changing his entire perspective on life. The boy’s name was Mike Berkson, who suffers from Cerebral Palsy, a congenital disease that affects muscle tone, movement and motor skills.

In Berkson’s case, he cannot move  his arms or legs. Wambach, who was Berkson’s one-on-one aid at the time, built  an everlasting bond with him and, in 2007, it influenced him to create the nonprofit organization, Keep On Keeping On, in order to help others like Berkson.

Wambach’s run began !ug. 29 in Orlando, Fla. and will span 1,200 miles with him finishing in Chicago. This effort is to raise awareness and funds for Team KOKO. In an email interview, Wambach addressed the choice of 1,200 miles.

“The run is a symbolic run from what I attempted in 2005,” he said.,  “I took Mike and his twin brother, David, to Walt Disney World in Orlando. They flew home; I ran home.”

The name for Wambach’s organization also has a deeper meaning to it.

“I saw the quote in the book, ‘Think and Grow Rich,’ by Napolean Hill,” Wambach said “It wasn’t until I met Mike that I truly understood what that quote meant.”

Wambach has some ideas about how his organization can spread knowledge about physical disabilities.

“It’s like anything else.There needs to be more education and awareness surrounding it,” Wambach said. I worked at Park Camp in Evanston for almost a decade before I met Mike. The individuals I was working with had both physical and developmental disabilities. I really didn’t know Mike’s situation firsthand until Mike and I traveled on an eighth grade class trip to D.C. This is where I was introduced to Mike’s daily schedule from sunup to sundown. I was pretty naive before that trip.”

One major  way to diminish the negative stigma against people with physical disabilities is to allow people to learn more about the topic.  With that in mind, Wambach created a show called “Handicap This!” where he  and his staff perform for about an hour.  In the show, Wambach discusses his relationship Berkson, as well as the larger community of others who have disabilities. They have been to college campuses, corporations, high schools and middle schools.

Even though he has done much to provide support and empowerment to the community of disabled people, he’s not done yet.

“Since KOKO is a grassroots organization, the biggest challenge is that there are more people to help than we can at the moment,” Wambach said “I know we have helped many, many people and families, but we want to be able to help more.

“At the end of the day, we know we are fighting the good fight and that helps us to continue to move forward.”

Wambach’s 1,200-mile journey is still underway. You can learn more about his non-profit organization, Team KOKO, by visiting www.teamkoko.org, or emailing him at [email protected]. There, you can donate miles, volunteer, follow Wambach’s blog, and find out about upcoming events. Wambach plans on completing his run Oct. 8 in Rosemont, where there will be a “Finish Line Celebration” that will be free to attend and open to all ages.