Aired on WBALTV 11 Baltimore, MD – March 10, 2015

By Kim Dacey

BEL AIR, Md. —A California man is making his way across the country one step at a time in the hope of raising awareness about rare diseases.

Noah Coughlan, 31, who was in Bel Air on Tuesday, is on a mission that seems to be making an impact everywhere he goes. Coughlan’s trek is called Run for Rare, and it’s to raise awareness for all rare diseases.

He was running through Bel Air on Tuesday as part of his run across the country.

“They’re all so rare that you don’t hear about them much. You don’t talk about them much. Collectively, there are 30 million Americans with a rare disease or disorder. That’s 1 in 10 of the population,” Coughlan said.

He got the idea for the run because, growing up in California, he knew two girls who had Batten disease, a rare brain disorder, and he was bothered by the lack of awareness about it.

Each day of his trip is dedicated to a different person who has a rare disease. He spends time with them and their families along the way.

His leg of the journey from Bel Air to Overlea is for Nick Heuchan, a Baltimore-area teen who also has Batten disease.

“I met with him last night. He’s just earned the title of Eagle Scout, so his special needs have not gotten in the way of him raising the bar and elevating himself to the next level. He’s very inspiring,” Coughlan said.

The trip is Coughlan’s third and final trek across America. Once he’s done, he’ll be one of only three people to do it three times.

Running anywhere from eight to 50 miles a day, he stays in hotels and occasionally in a tent, but everywhere he goes, he finds the best in people.

“The American public has been very receptive and courteous. I get to witness the kindness of the American people every day — people honking, waving, pulling over and asking about Run for Rare,” he said.

When Coughlan runs into Washington, D.C., later this month, he plans to meet with members of Congress about rare diseases. He’s dedicating 127 days to raising awareness and said it’s worth every minute.

“At the end of the day, as the guy who’s doing a big run and being an advocate for rare diseases, I just want everybody to have an equal chance to have their disease cured, whether it’s a rare disease or a common disease,” Coughlan said.

He will end his 3,000-mile journey in San Diego on July 4.