When Ronnie Duvall found out a friend’s daughter had been diagnosed with a stage 4 glioblastoma inoperable brain tumor, he began to do extensive research on pediatric cancer. All the research did was make him angry. So he decided to start a fight against pediatric cancer by driving across the country, hitting every contiguous state, to learn, educate and build a network. He calls the effort “Driven 2 Make Change.” The Sun Journal talked with him when he came through western Maine in late summer and got an update just last week on day 153 of his journey.

Name: Ronnie Duvall

Age: 40

Hometown: San Francisco, California

What do you do for work? Before Aug. 13, 2015, I was working as a senior project manager for a national general contracting firm, flying around the country, making a six-figure-a-year income. But money doesn’t compare to what a child goes through. On that date I made it official I was going to start my fight against childhood cancer.

How did you begin this journey? I told people I was going to drive to St. Jude and do a $50,000 fundraiser, and donate it to them based on a car show at their place. They denied my ability to have a car show. I asked to use their logo for my drive. They said no, that I would have to be almost a quarter-million-dollar-a-year sponsor to have that entitlement. So I told myself I was going to drive all 48 states. After doing some homework, I learned that nobody has ever done that for childhood cancer. I then set a plan in motion to study, save, downsize and execute my trip. I planned to leave June 1, 2016 for a 90-day tour across all 48 states, returning home Sept. 1, thus hoping to illuminate my city hall building in San Francisco in gold, to make people aware that September is childhood cancer awareness month.

Why a drive? I didn’t want to start a 501(c) (3) (nonprofit organization) or launch a website in California before learning what childhood cancer really meant — the pure definition. You can read a website all day long, but are you really going to get the truth? You’re not. There’s no better way to get the truth than to actually meet face to face with families, talk to children, stand bedside, talk with pediatric oncologists and tour research facilities — all of which I’ve done. I’ve met with government officials at the state, local and federal level. I’ve talked to local people and spread factual learning based on collective information that’s been compiled across the board, not just taking one website as the holy grail.

How are you keeping track of all your research and building a network? By recording cancer clusters and info on Facebook, the data is saved. As far as my findings go, I am building a vast network that couldn’t be done by sitting at home with the computer. By meeting parents, advocates, government politicians, doctors, researchers, pediatric oncologists and specialists, you build a personal relationship where you understand who they are, they understand who you are, and you’ve made a connection from that point forward. At this point my network is on an international level — several countries are following what I’m doing.

What made you decide to stop in Bethel, Maine? I was contacted by a family here in Bethel knowing I was close to Maine. They wanted to see the truck, and tell me their stories. They think what I’m doing is awesome. There’s so many cases in such a small community, but it hasn’t been recognized as a cluster yet. There are four pediatric cases (in) a population of 2,607 people (according to the 2010 census). That’s about one child per 500 registered adults. That’s scary for such a small community. It brings the question: What are the environmental impacts?

How long have you been traveling (as of the end of October)? I’ve driven over 20,000 miles, and I’m on state 36 now. Originally I had a 90-day travel goal, but here I am on day 153 with over 400,000 miles on my truck. My travel goal has changed based on discovery. The whole eastern seaboard is littered with cancer clusters. A lot of cities and states don’t want to recognize it because it could cause a lot of problems. When you start to name places as childhood cancer clusters, it brings so many questions. Is there a association between the toxic levels of water, air or foods that are causing the problem for children? I’m achieving my other goals of making connections and spreading information, which are more important.

What is the biggest challenge you’re facing? I can’t get a tire sponsor for the life of me. I have a total of five nails in my tires, lots of patches, three of them are bald, but I’m going to keep driving. I’m going to risk it because I promised kids I would complete this mission. I’m not stopping until one of (my tires) falls off and pops. I’m still rolling along, that’s what is important.

What’s next? I need to be back in California by the first week in December and re-establish my life before my next trip. But first I still need to hit 12 more states: Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Washington, Oregon, then back to California, in that order.

 What is your advice to people dealing with childhood cancer? I urge families all the time, record everything. When a doctor walks into the room, record the time. When a doctor administers medication, write down what kind and how often they give it to your child. The more data the parent saves, the better ability they have to fight if there’s something wrong with the treatment program. It’s a better way to protect themselves from fraud.

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