Today is Tuesday. It’s unseasonably hot outside, like 90 degrees and muggy. Right this second, a young man is running. And though it sounds corny, the fact is, he’s probably smiling. He’ll cover about 40 miles of Ohio roads on this day, with no cash, no cell phone, and no idea where he’ll eat dinner or spend the night. He did the same thing yesterday, and he’ll do it again tomorrow.
Makorobondo “Dee” Salukombo ’12 left campus yesterday for a three-day run back to his home in Lakewood, Ohio. It’s about 120 miles all told, and it’s for a good cause. He’s raising money for children in the village of Kirotshe in the Republic of Congo, where $2 can buy a few days’ food for a family, and $10 can provide supplies for an entire classroom.
Kirotshe isn’t just some faraway place for Dee; it’s where he lived as a child, until the Second Congo War forced his family to flee. They spent the next few years as refugees in Uganda, and then his family gained permission to move to Ohio.
He enrolled at Lakewood High School, where the things many of us have the luxury of taking for granted, like school supplies and daily meals, felt extraordinary. In Kirotshe, sometimes even the teachers didn’t have textbooks, and a pen was a rare gift.
At Lakewood, he thrived academically and also discovered that he was good at running. Here at Denison, he continues on those paths, as a chemistry major and a standout on the cross country and track teams.
This weekend, just before his long-distance run home to Lakewood, he competed in the NCAA National Championship 5,000 meter run. He finished strong with a time of 15.02.16, which, unfortunately, was about 15 seconds short of the leader.
It had to be a disappointment. Dee certainly likes to win, Coach Pan Fanaritis told The Columbus Dispatch, but his upbringing has afforded him a rare perspective on athletic competition.
“He views the people he’s racing as friends, not rivals,” Fanaritis said. “If you see him at a meet, he’s always smiling.”
So why didn’t Dee take any money or equipment along on his three-day run home to Lakewood?
Because Dee wants to meet people, tell them about his home village, and rely on the kindness of strangers.
It’s an unusual strategy for a fundraiser–and for a long, hot run. But it’ll work out. People will smile back at him.
If you’d like to help, contributions can be sent to:
Dee Salukombo Benefit Fund
c/o Aza Bittinger, Jr.
Huntington National Bank
630 S. State St. CB 16
Westerville, OH 43081