Monday, February 19, 2001

Cop's rickshaw run to benefit kids

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Lt. Mike Martinsen and homemade rickshaw.
(Michael Snyder photo)
| ZOOM |
        A Hamilton police lieutenant plans to run more than a marathon a day — for eight straight days. All the while, Lt. Mike Martinsen will be pulling a 100-pound homemade rickshaw on his 300-mile route from Canada to Cincinnati.

        He knows the stunt sounds crazy. But the reason he's doing it isn't.

        “I knew it had to be very challenging and I knew it had to be unusual to gain interest, to help me call attention to all the children out there with life-threatening illnesses,” said Lt. Martinsen of West Chester Township, whose goal is to raise $50,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation's Cincinnati office.

        Tracy Beckman of Make-A-Wish, which grants wishes to children with potentially fatal conditions, said the rickshaw idea at first seemed “off the wall.” But when she met Lt. Martinsen, she realized he was physically fit and determined enough to make the run a reality.

        “We have never had anybody give that much personal effort or go to that extent for Make-A-Wish,” she said.

  Lt. Mike Martinsen will take his rickshaw throughout the Cincinnati area before the run, seeking sponsors and pledges. Donations are being accepted at Fifth Third Bank branches or by calling Make-A-Wish at 398-6660.
        More than 100 children from Kentucky and Ohio are on her office's waiting list; if Lt. Martinsen meets his fund-raising goal, 10 wishes can be granted, Ms. Beckman said.

        “It's unbelievable what he's going to go through to make these children's dreams come true,” said Hamilton police Officer Dave Crawford.

        An avid runner, Lt. Martinsen, 35, has a daughter with severe mental retardation.

        Through her experience, Lt. Martinsen learned about parents and children facing much bleaker circumstances — and that inspired him to help.

        “When I think about those families and children, there is no problem covering 40 miles a day,” he said. “All I'll have to do is think of the looks on their faces, and I know I can make it to Cincinnati on April 2 — jogging, walking or crawling, I'll make it.”

        The idea for the rickshaw came from his daughter's delight in taking rides in a “pedicab,” a wheeled carriage that attaches to a bicycle, Lt. Martinsen said.

        The Rickshaw Run is to start March 26 in Windsor, Ontario, and finish in time for Lt. Martinsen to join “wish” children for the Cincinnati Reds' Opening Day festivities..

        To get ready, Lt. Martinsen — the son of retired Cincinnati police officer Carston Martinsen — has been running 108 miles a week.

        “With the kind of tenacity that he shows here on the job, I have no doubt that he'll make it — and we're all very proud of him,” Hamilton Police Chief Neil Ferdelman said. “It's just amazing to see that kind of humanity displayed.”

        Lt. Martinsen and his wife, Donna, have three children: Matthew, 8; Megan, 7; David, 3. Matthew and David were born without the problems affecting Megan.

        Doctors can't say why Megan is functioning at the level of a 10-month-old child. But she's happy and healthy — something Lt. Martinsen grew to appreciate more last fall, after an encounter in the Children's Hospital Medical Center waiting room.

        Lt. Martinsen wondered aloud: “They can put a man on the moon but why can't they diagnose my daughter?”

        Another father whose child had an irreversible fatal condition looked Lt. Martinsen in the eye and said, “Trust me: Finding a diagnosis isn't necessarily a good thing.”

        “That put things in perspective for me,” Lt. Martinsen said. “We are so blessed with Megan.”


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