As we say goodbye to 2014, we take a look back at one man, a dog and 8,000 miles.
Kevin Payne, 19, from Baltimore spent the past eight months out on the open road cycling and running cross country. Now, Payne is back home in Maryland. He completed his 8,000-mile journey with a mission to raise awareness about Williams Syndrome, or WS.
The genetic disorder affects about 30,000 Americans, Payne’s older brother Jake is one of them. People with WS are very social and endearing, but they face developmental delays, learning disabilities, kidney and heart problems. We talked to Payne Wednesday about his trip.
“It’s a surreal feeling being home. It’s a big culture shock,” said Payne.
During his trip he met dozens of families affected by WS. In June, he met 17-year-old Megan Murano in Palm Desert as he rode through the area. She is the only person in the Coachella Valley with Willams Syndrome.
“I think the coolest part is he’s brave enough to walk all these miles. Ride all these miles, and run all these miles,” said Megan.
“He’s definitely a part of our family forever,” said Tiffany Moore, Megan’s mom.
Along the way Payne picked up a couple of pups, an old friend and raised $11,000 for the Williams Syndrome Association. Each day brought a new challenge.
“Bear encounters, alligator encounters, snakes and people trying to run me off the road. As for success, making it back home in one piece was the biggest,” Payne said.
As for Megan, she just landed her first job at California Pizza Kitchen on El Paseo.
“I love my job,” Megan said. “I feel like when I’m at work I can be independent.”
“I’m so proud of her and she did it all on her own,” said Tiffany Moore, Megan’s mom.
“I hope she keeps her head and keeps a positive outlook. I want her to know she has one more supporter,” Payne said.
Payne says his next adventure is going back to college. Megan hopes to gain more independence and also continue spreading awareness about her condition.
“It’s hard, but at the same time I have to realize there are a lot of people who love and care about me,” said Megan.