Old Man Walking fundraising campaign returns

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Richard Atkinson is pounding the pavement again for his Oldest Man Walking fundraising campaign. He launched two similar fundraisers in 2009 and 2014. (Heidi Desch/Whitefish Pilot)

Richard Atkinson is walking again — and once again he’s doing it to raise money.

The local philanthropist has already completed two walking campaigns raising funds for Whitefish projects, and in the months leading up to his 80th birthday he’s pulled on his walking shoes again as “Oldest Man Walking.”

Atkinson welcomes students and adults to join him on his walk, but says he completes a 15-minute mile so be ready to keep up.

“I will slow down for money,” he says with a laugh.

Atkinson’s goal this time is to raise at least $100,000 for two main areas of need at Whitefish High School. The money will go toward the FREEFLOW club and the Center for Sustainability and Entrepreneurship.

Just as he did in his Older Man Walking campaign in 2014 and his Old Man Walking campaign in 2009, he sports a bright green T-shirt with the slogan across the front.

During his first two campaigns, he walked a total of 937 miles and his goal is to hit the 1,000 mile mark. He plans to walk until he reaches the total miles or until his 80th birthday on Feb. 26, 2020.

“I want to make 1,000 miles and raise at least $100,000,” he said.

The funds will be used to purchase a used bus for the FREEFLOW science club, which uses a bus now for its field trips, but is in desperate need of a replacement.

Funds will also go to needs at the Center for Sustainability and Entrepreneurship like for creation of a food forest, where students would be able to grow food-producing bushes and trees, along with supplies for education projects.

Atkinson began his latest walking campaign this week and plans to walk three days per week on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays mornings beginning at 8 a.m. from near Whitefish Middle School, past Whitefish High School and turning around at Muldown Elementary School and returning to his starting point.

“The kids really get involved and I love that,” he said.

Atkinson’s original Old Man Walking campaign raised about $250,000 for the Whitefish Performing Arts Center and his second Older Man Walking campaign raised $70,000 in funding to kick off the larger fundraiser for what eventually became the Center for Sustainability and Entrepreneurship that opened in 2018.

Donations to the Oldest Man Walking campaign can be made through the Whitefish Community Foundation and are tax deductible. For more information, contact the foundation at 406-863-1781 or visit www.whitefishcommunityfoundation.org.

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