ST. CHARLES – Steve Spear – the St. Charles man running across the country to provide clean water for an African village – arrived in downtown St. Charles late Saturday morning, sweaty but in good spirits.
"This is awesome," Spear, 49, said of the hometown rally celebration near Dick Pond Athletics on North Second Street. "I feel like a kid in a candy shop."
Spear is running from Los Angeles to New York as part of Team World Vision, one of the fundraising programs for World Vision. He hopes to raise $1.5 million to build a clean water and sanitation system for 30,000 people in Kenya.
Thoughts of one Kenyan, a 7-year-old girl named Winnie whom he met only once, keep him motivated to run 35 miles a day, five days a week, he said. He said she walks six miles every day for water – contaminated water.
"That definitely is a motivation for me to keep moving day after day," said Spear, who gave up his post as pastor at Willow Creek Community Church in West Chicago.
With 840 miles to his final destination, Spear has raised about $129,000, said his 20-year-old daughter, Chelsea Spear.
"He'll do what it takes to get it done, even after the run," she said.
Chelsea Spear joined her father on his quest in Amarillo, Texas, early last month, though she doesn't run alongside him because of an injury, she said. His dedication has been amazing, motivating and, she said, inspiring.
Willow Creek parishioner Suzanne Zafiriou agreed.
"He's an amazing man to just really take this leap of faith and what he felt God wanted him to do," Zafiriou said.
Zafiriou and her 18-year-old daughter are among those who have visited Steve Spear on his route. They visited him in Oklahoma soon after Father's Day, Zafiriou said.
"It was a lot of fun to catch up with him on the road," she said.
Wanting to support him, Zafiriou will hold a fundraiser at her salon, Suzanne Denee Salon & Day Spa at 3861 E. Main St. in St. Charles, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. July 29. All proceeds of the Cut and Run will benefit Steve Spear's Running for Water campaign. The minimum suggested donation will be $20.
"I really want to support this effort as much as I can," Zafiriou said.