Man Uses GPS Tracking Technology to Honor Children Fighting Cancer

5 Feb 2018

Sunday, February 4th was World Cancer Day and the month of February is National Cancer Prevention month. Below is an inspiring, heartfelt story of a man honoring children fighting cancer.

Rik Zortman was a grieving father who found salvation and inspiration in running after the death of his three-year-old son, Armstrong. Armstrong died of brain cancer. Zortman was never much of a runner before, but needed something to do to help him channel his grief.

So, he took up running, something three-year-old Armstrong had loved to do. Running helped him work his way through the grieving process, but also gave him a way to honor his son by mapping a route that spelled his son’s name using his GPS fitness tracker.

It didn’t take long for inspiration to strike and Zortman came up with a plan to spell the names of 100 other children who were living with cancer within a one month. With his efforts to honor children fighting cancer, he is able to continuously honor his son and deal with the grief that will never fully go away.

GPS tracking records every step Zortman takes on his runs, so he stops frequently to examine his GPS to ensure there are no mistakes in the route. Each name is as important to him as that of his own son. The list, which began with 100 names, has quickly grown to include well over 250.

In the weeks following Armstrong’s death, Zortman admits he went around in a dazed state, going through the motions of living. He was just consumed by grief.

When he decided to attend a 5k in the community to honor his son, inspiration struck and Zortman began running 5Ks and half marathons. He believes Armstrong is with him, in spirit, every time he runs and uses these runs as an opportunity to talk to the sun he loves so much.

At first, he was just posting his routes on Facebook when a comment from a friend gave him inspiration yet again. The friend commented that the routes looked so boring.

It was then that he decided to incorporate patterns into his running. He has spelled out the names of friends and other words, even proposed to his wife by running the letters and tracing the route via GPS.

It was during September, childhood cancer awareness month, that he decided to run a route that would spell his son’s name, eight years after his son’s death. He was so inspired by this that he asked for more names he could spell while running – of children who were currently battling cancer or who had lost their battles. These names came from near and far and serve as inspiration for the kids fighting cancer as well as the families who have lost children to this terrible disease.

Zortman continues to run claiming that he can’t stop running because these kids can’t stop fighting.




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