An Iowa man whose hobby is running long-distance through some of the world’s hottest deserts has won a national contest that’ll benefit the state’s bone marrow donor program.
Rusty Bishop, of Des Moines, was among five "extreme sports" athletes picked by an outdoor magazine and a shoe company — and Internet voters chose Bishop as the favorite.
"All five semi-finalists received $5,000 for their charity of choice and then the grand prize was an additional $25,000," Bishop says. "My charity is the Iowa Marrow Donor Program at the Iowa City hospitals, so they’ll receive $30,000." Running is a hobby for Bishop. "More of an obsession," he corrects.
His day job is running a shop in Des Moines that specializes in hot tea. He’s thrilled his enthusiasm for the endurance racing has paid off for the non-profit group. "Those funds will go to pay for tissue typing to add people to the national and global registry for the marrow and stem cell donation," Bishop says. "Thirty-thousand dollars will pay for roughly 500 to 700 people to be added to the registry which is an enormous amount of people to be added, which is fantastic."
In 2001, Bishop was matched with an infant in Oklahoma who was suffering from a rare disease and he donated his bone marrow to the girl. Just last year, Bishop attended a party with the girl and her family to mark eight years since the transplant surgery. "In knowing the process, how simple it was to be able to give a family, and in this case a child, a chance at life, it’s just an amazing thing," Bishop says. "This is really close to me and the important thing to me is to share the process with people to get more people interested in joining the registry to be potential donors."
Bishop uses his runs to promote and raise funds for the Iowa Marrow Donor Program. The races are typically 150-miles over seven days and participants carry all of their food and clothing for the week through deserts around the world. He’s done them in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, considered the driest place on earth, as well as the Gobi Desert in China and the Sahara Desert in Africa. To learn more about the contest, log on to the "Inspiring Soles" website .