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Your Family Now: Iowa's "Human Etch-A-Sketch" runs names to honor son, other kids with cancer

Posted at 2:53 PM, Apr 20, 2018

Many people run to clear their heads but Rik Zortman runs with a plan. He has a mapped route with meaning. 

The Avoca, Iowa man lost his 3-year-old son Armstrong to brain cancer in 2009. He said when he started running he felt a connection to his little boy. He said, "Running was always there. It was my way of communicating with Armstrong. It was my time." 

Last year he got the idea to map out words using the app Map My Run. He figured out how to spell letters as he ran. He calls himself a human etch-a-sketch

"September 1st came, Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, first name out of the box - you know it's going to be Armstrong," Zortman told us. "So when I'm running Armstrong's name, I'm thinking, I wonder how I can do this for other kids." 

He put out a request on social media for people he should run for. He's run more than 300 names and has a list of others to keep going. He also runs inspiring words. He hopes to connect people who likely feel lost and alone as they see their children battling cancer. 

"My hope is that people realize childhood cancer is a thing, and people have gone through it." 

He's raising awareness. He mainly runs in Iowa but also signs up for races in other places. He soon will run the St. Jude Rock 'n' Roll half marathon. You can donate to his fundraiser here

You also can request a name for him to run