Daily Republic
February 16, 2015
By Amy Maginnis-Honey
VACAVILLE — Noah Coughlan believes in letting his feet do most of the talking.

The 31-year-old Vacaville resident is set to begin his third cross-country run on Feb. 28. When it’s over, on Independence Day, Coughlan will have logged more than 3,000 miles, crossed through 13 states, over four mountain ranges and three deserts.

He probably won’t get a gold medal as he hits the Pacific Ocean in San Diego. Rather, he’ll be known as the man with the heart of gold.

Coughlan, who loves to run, pounds the pavement, gravel and dirt to raise awareness for all people affected by rare diseases, conditions that affect less than 200,000 people.

At a kickoff Sunday, Coughlan talked about what drives him.

“There are a lot of people out there without a voice,” he said. “With these rare and unknown diseases, if we don’t talk about them collectively, how can we find a cure?”

Coughlan’s first run was in 2011, inspired by Vacans Catie and Annie Allio, who have Batten disease, an inherited nervous system disorder that is fatal. Catie died in 2012. She was 22.

He ran across the country again in 2013, shortly after having shoulder surgery. Again, he wanted to bring attention to the devastating effects of Batten disease.

After that trek, Coughlan felt that was his last cross-country run.

Then, he realized there was still a story to tell. This time out, he’s running for all rare diseases.

Robert Soliz and his mother, Carmen Soliz, were in the crowd at Theatre DeVille.

“He’s an exceptional young man,” Robert Soliz said.

“He’s positive, he’s helpful, he’s thoughful,” Carmen Soliz said.

That was just the beginning of the accolades.

Incoming Fairfield Police Chief Joe Allio said how much his family has been touched by Coughlan’s efforts. Allio was Coughlan’s youth pastor.

Vacaville Mayor Len Augustine presented Coughlan with his city pin.

“Wear it across America and when you come back, it’s yours,” Augustine said. “You make us proud.”

Coughlan is the subject of a documentary being filmed by fellow Vacan Ezio Lucido. The crowd at Theatre DeVille saw a short clip of it Sunday.

In the film clip was Sean Baumstark, who was diagnosed with Friedreich’s ataxia in 2007. It causes damage to the nervous system and affects about 10,000 Americans.

Baumstark spoke to the group while choking back tears. He praised Coughlan for his efforts to make lives better for the 300 million people worldwide that live with rare diseases.

“Treacherous, ruthless and often unforgiving” diseases, he said.

“My disease threatens to put me in a wheelchair,” Baumstark said.

The event raised $8,000 for Run for Rare. Theatre DeVille owner Jason Johnson matched the donation, bringing the total to $16,000.

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