April 11, 2013 | Vol. 116 -- No. 51

Running for Mike

McKeehans and friends carry on dad’s Bloomsday tradition, raise money to fight lung diseases

For Mike McKeehan, running was a passion.

John McCallum
Judy McKeehan (left) along with daughter Katie McKeehan Hart (right) and granddaughters Mary Kay (front) and Luce (middle) wear the shirts picturing Judy’s husband, Mike McKeehan, they hope will help raise money to fight pulmonary fibrosis. To the right of Katie is the display case with all 36 of Mike’s Bloomsday shirts, along with the medal he received for running every race on top.

So much so that the former Cheney City Councilman and long time resident who passed away last July was known as a “perennial” – someone who had run in every single Bloomsday race since the event began in 1976. Thirty-six in all – and his family hope others will join with them to make it 37 for a special cause.

McKeehan passed away July 19 due to complications from pulmonary fibrosis, a disease scarring the lung tissue and damaging the air sacs, alveoli, so that it’s difficult for the lungs to transfer oxygen to the bloodstream, starving the body’s organs of their needed supply. There is no cure, but in an email, McKeehan’s son Patrick said he and his sister Katie will be running in the annual 12-kilometer, 7.46 mile, race this May 5 to help raise to find one along with awareness of the disease.

Katie McKeehan Hart has created a donation page “Bloomsday for Mike McKeehan” to help promote the cause. Visitors to the site can make a donation to the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation or purchase a special T-shirt in support, with $5 from each shirt purchase donated to PFF. The McKeehan’s goal is $5,000, with $920 raised as of April 8.

So far about 10 family members will be running, McKeehan Hart said. Besides herself and Patrick, three of Mike’s sisters will be coming from various parts of the country along with several cousins. Katie’s two young daughters, Mary Kate and Luce, will be running in the kids race “The Marmot March” Saturday, May 4.

“Mary Kate says she’s going to run, hop and skip,” Katie said.

Physical complications will prevent Mike’s wife Judy from running, but she said she plans to be there to support everyone, just as she did Mike when he ran. Both McKeehan’s said Mike was a runner most of his life, beginning when he was in college pursuing his bachelors of arts degree at Haverford College just outside Philadelphia, Pa. Besides Bloomsday, he ran in a number of other area races including the “Dawg Dash” at the University of Washington, where he received is master’s degree in education.

Even when disabled, Mike made the effort to complete the Spokane course and earn a shirt. One year Mike suffered a herniated disc prior to the event, and had his family push him around the Bloomsday course in a wheelchair.

Judy said there was a part of the course where an evangelist had set up and was preaching to people as they passed. Mike made it a point to have them stop right where he was – and get out of the chair.

“When he got out of that chair we all yelled, ‘It’s a miracle,’” Judy said. “The evangelist didn’t think it was funny.”

Judy said she took part in a couple Bloomsdays with her classes, and Mike, a teacher for 30 years in the Cheney School District, always displayed his shirts to his students, even when contracting the disease in the early 2000s limited him to walking instead of running.

“Pulmonary fibrosis is pretty much what made him have to stop running, and that was hard for him,” she said.

McKeehan Hart said so far she’s been training using a Bloomsday training application at her home in West Seattle, and is up to about seven miles. She and the rest of the family are inviting anyone who wants to join them on the course May 5, and let them know through Facebook or other means if they plan on running so they can get a group picture after the race.

“We just wanted to let people know how important dad was,” she said.

Donations can be made at Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation Team PFF/Bloomsday Run, 230 E. Ohio St. No. 304, Chicago, IL 60611, or online at www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/katiemckeehanhart/katiemckeehanhartsfundraisingpage.

Shirts can be ordered online at www.cafepress.com/mikemckeehan.

John McCallum can be reached at jmac@cheneyfreepress.com.

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