UPDATE: Patrick completed his
run across the country on April 23.
Read more about his journey and
what he's doing to raise awareness
and funds for juvenile arthritis on
his web site.

Patrick McGlade is no Forrest Gump. But don't tell his thousands of followers from California to Georgia who have opened their hearts, homes and pocketbooks to support and encourage the Richmond, Va. native. 

To them, he's every bit the humble messiah who is delivering more than a message about juvenile arthritis (JA), a debilitating disease that affects 300,000 children and young adults nationwide. He is hoping to raise $50,000 for the Arthritis Foundation to help find a cure by running the equivalent of a marathon a day for four months, from January to April 2010.

“It's a cause that desperately needs exposure,” stresses Patrick, who was stunned by the prevalence of JA after hearing about the plight of a friend's 11-year-old granddaughter.

“So few people know about JA, or think arthritis affects only older people. When I heard what this little girl was enduring, all the injections and hospital stays, I knew I had to do something. So, I am running for kids who can't.”

An enthusiastic crowd of friends, family and supporters joined Patrick in Huntington Beach, Calif. on January 2, 2010 to launch his cross-country run, which will end at Tybee Island, Georgia on April 23.

But, one face stood out from the rest: Arthritis Foundation advocate, 11-year-old Mikayla Minnig, of Downey, Calif., who has JA, presented him with a bracelet etched with the words, 'Kids Get Arthritis Too.' “I was so touched,” says Patrick. “It will be with me every step of the way. I may never take it off.”

Patrick realized his love of running while running to get cars as a valet near his Virginia home and found he was suited for running long distances. He qualified for Boston's Marine Corps Marathon and quickly graduated to running ultra-marathons, which cover distances of up to 100 miles. Since then, he has won a slew of races.

A High-Tech, Cross-Country Journey

Patrick began planning his route in May for the 2,500-mile course from California to Georgia, and was ready by the time he graduated with a business degree from Virginia Commonwealth University in December.

He is recording his journey using an arsenal of high-tech networking tools, from Google maps to daily video blogs posted via his iPhone.

Daily lodging is courtesy of a host family network from different chapters of the Arthritis Foundation who offer Patrick their homes or cash for a hotel room.

One such family is Mike and Bettye Forster of Louisville, Miss., whose 10-year-old granddaughter, Rebecca, has been battling JA since age 5.