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Children’s Author Runs 11,000 Miles to Promote Literacy

Dennis Yang, longtime RIFSoCal partner and children’s literacy advocate, launched his year and a half long Great Reading Run around the perimeter of the United States at the Santa Monica Pier on August 25th, 2014.  His goal?  Raise a million dollars for books for underprivileged and at risk youth everywhere and to get people to collectively run a million miles with him.  Why?  Dennis believes reading is the key to a bright future, and that's the message he hopes to spread across the nation.

“We are going to reverse the trend of falling test scores and expanding waistlines,” said Yang, 37, who established the Papa Didos Ideals Foundation in 2010 and has since given away thousands of children’s books across the country, and read to kids in schools, children’s hospitals, orphanages, and community centers. The name of the foundation and his pen name were what his adopted son called Yang before he could speak properly. (Posted On 11 Jan 2012, By LB Indy Staff)

Read about Dennis as he stops in Marfa, Texas…

By SARAH M. VASQUEZ

MARFA – A children’s author stopped in Marfa earlier this week during his “Great Reading Run” along the country’s borders. Californian Dennis Yang, also known as Papa Didos, began his second cross-country run to promote literacy on August 23 at the Santa Monica Pier. On Monday and Tuesday, days 58 and 59, Yang and his travel companion, Crystal Love, reached this part of West Texas.

It was their first time in Marfa, but Yang was “very excited” to come to town, especially to see the Marfa Lights. He stopped for a photo at Prada Marfa in Valentine, and one of the first things he did when he arrived in Marfa was eat at Memo’s Café. Owners Cynthia and Daniel “Peanut” Hernandez donated his meal. The Thunderbird Hotel also comped them a room for the night, providing the first shower in the past three days. Pueblo Market donated $50 in groceries.

Yang said he’s been a writer all his life with his first incarnation as a screenwriter. He then transitioned into children’s books. He’s written 110 books but carries five titles during this tour under his non-profit organization, Papa Didos Ideals Foundation. The name Papa Didos is the name his adopted son would call him at an early age. Yang said his books mature as the children mature, covering topics such as how to be a good friend, recycling, and being kind to animals.

The idea to run across the country began when he realized he would run as a way to inspire his writing as well as help stimulate his creative process.

“When I thought about it, I added up all my miles and said that adds to running across America,” said Yang.

So he did. Yang completed his first reading run across the US, from Long Beach, California to Coney Island, New York, in 2011. It took him four and a half months to complete this 3,281-mile run.

During each city stop, Yang visits schools, libraries and children’s hospitals to donate copies of his books, which are paid for with donations he receives, and read to the children. Yang visited the Marfa ISD fourth-grade class and discussed the importance of reading and his work as an author. He also read from his book “The Tenth Floor,” and signed the students’ bookmarks. Teacher Heidi Roman said in an email that her students were “very excited” to meet a real-life author.

Yang predicts to finish his current trek around the country, which will total close to 11,000 miles, in January 2016, but he tries to focus on one day at a time and not to think of the end goal. To him, the whole goal is trying to survive each day in one piece.

“As long as we take care of all those small goals, the big one will take care of itself,” said Yang.

To keep in shape for the long-trek, he consumes 7,000 to 8,000 calories each day and eats a lot of chia seed, which provides antioxidants, protein and fiber and is grown primarily in Mexico and Bolivia, according to the New York Times. Sponsorships and donations also allow him to complete his journey.

Love accompanies Yang in a travel trailer and tries to stay within a 10-mile radius of Yang during his runs. Yang said he’s pretty strict about running during the day. He does have a headlight for nighttime runs, but after a sidewinder snake sneaked passed him the one and only time he used it, he decided to use the nighttime solely for rest.

Yang is currently making his way toward San Antonio and Houston, where he will continue to run to Florida. The rest of his journey will take him to New York, the state of Washington and back to California. People can keep track of Yang’s progress at his website, papadidos.org.