Tom Knoll

Wednesday - June 15, 2011
By MidWeek Staff | Share
Tom Knoll has raised almost $1 million for charity. Leah Friel photo .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

By Christina O’Connor

In 1978, as 40-something Tom Knoll was crossing the finish line of a 250-mile run in Okinawa, he was greeted by a little girl with crutches who was standing there to welcome him.

The girl was sponsored by the Okinawa Shriner’s Club for hospital treatment, and Knoll, then a counterintelligence official, was running to raise money for the organization. The run was his second for charity - the first was in 1976 around Oahu while he was stationed at the Kaneohe Marine Corp base.

After that first 133.6-mile run, Knoll thought, “This is a start. I am going to make $1 million for charity,” he says. And when he crossed that finish line in Okinawa, he knew he would keep going until he met that goal.

Now, 35 years later at age 78, Knoll is still running.

He has raised a total of $994,942 for charities including Make A Wish, the Challenged Athlete Foundation and Wounded Warriors.

And in July, he’s about to hit his big million-dollar mark.

The final dollars will likely go toward the Challenged Athletes Foundation. “I’m excited,” he says. “It’s been a wonderful experience ... and I’ve met a lot of wonderful people along the way.”

Knoll’s runs have taken him all of the world - Paris, Istanbul and Athens, to name but a few. He has also run across the country twice.

And although he will reach his goal in July, Knoll has no plans to stop. He still has a few more runs lined up in the next few months - one in Kona, one in Washington, D.C., and another in Alabama. In two years, he will make his big finale - a third run across the United States. As always, these runs will raise money for charity.

“I just like to do stuff for other people,” he says modestly.

Knoll isn’t sure exactly when or where he will reach $1 million, but he knows he’s about to cross that finish line. And even all these years later, it’s the finish line in Okinawa that is still on his mind - even after all of his successes and all of his travels, he still thinks about the little girl who inspired him to make a million. He lost contact with her a number of years ago, but the last he heard was that she is married, has kids - and she can walk. To purchase Knoll’s book Why Not A Million? ($25), email him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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