Dan Isaacson, right, is running 30 miles a day from Portland to New York City to promote social change through the Project Starlight Foundation. The 90-day trek will take him and his driving partner, Isaac Rochester, left, 2,950 miles through cities and towns, over mountains and through prairies, raising money along the way for the foundation.

By Karen Hutchinson-Talaski

Staff writer

STANFIELD — Exacting change is what helps make a difference in a community — sometimes a difficult and daunting task.

For Dan Isaacson, founder of Project Starlight Foundation, it only takes one person to make a difference.

Project Starlight Foundation (PSF) is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping individuals bring community improvement projects to their communities. Isaacson was in Stanfield Tuesday on the first leg of his run from Portland to New York City in 90 days.

Altogether, he will run 2,950 miles, across mountain ranges and rural areas, cities and towns, stopping to talk to anyone interested in his cause, and hoping to raise money for projects to be funded by PSF.

Isaacson expects to arrive in New York on Sept. 18. Dubbed "Gemini Run," the Oregon native will run 30 miles per day.

The idea for the cross-country run came about one day when the PSF team were sitting around, trying to come up with ways to promote the foundation. Isaacson says since he was a runner, one idea could be to sponsor a series of runs.

"I said I could run across country," he said. "I meant it jokingly, but they took me seriously."

Isaacson started his run from Portland on Flag Day, June 14. A motor home provided by corporate sponsor Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., will follow him as a mobile ground support team monitors his health, tracking his progress and preparing each stop along the way for his arrival. The motor home is being driven by Isaac Rochester, director of field operations for PSF. The money raised during the Gemini Run will be invested and the interest will fund the Project Starlight Foundation.

Project Starlight started with two basic ideas — to help individuals or groups to change their community through what Isaacson calls "social capital" (those things that bring communities together and lessen their burdens) and to find ways to bring that idea to the nation's youth.

"People want to help their communities," Isaacson said. "After-school programs have the biggest single impact on kids. We can help figure out how to get it off the ground, provide mentors. It doesn't take that much money to make a difference."

Project Starlight can help by offering guidance and start-up capital — whether it is an after-school program, youth sports league, adult literacy program, or a new senior center. Isaacson says Project Starlight can assist with information on similar programs in other parts of the U.S., give advice on strategy and growth, and providing the economic resources to get a project off the ground.

Isaacson is no stranger to exacting change in his community.

A native Oregonian and a graduate of the University of Oregon, Isaacson was one of two Oregonians selected to attend the National Youth Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C., where he served as president. He served on local boards and committees from 1997-2003 before receiving his B.S. in political science in 2004. Isaacson intends to go to law school in 2007.

"I wanted to work in the public field," Isaacson said. "After (Hurricane) Katrina, I thought this was an avenue we could do. You don't have to be part of a big project — it's the small things that matter."

The Gemini Run is being sponsored by Nike, Champion Sports Wear, Red Bull Energy Drink, Fifth Third Bank and Northfield Football, an adult football league in Chicago, where Isaacson now lives. Nike is providing his shoes as he travels across country.

"I have almost worn through the first pair," Isaacson said with a laugh.

Isaacson says the generosity of the drivers along the road has been great.

"Do you know how many people stop and ask if I need a ride?" he asked. "I find it fairly humbling. It's one of those things about small towns. Towns like this make an impact."

Isaacson's journey can be tracked on the PSF website by visiting and clicking on "Where's Dan?" Anyone wishing to contribute to PSF may do so on the website.

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