AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBasketball roundup: Sierra Canyon, Birmingham set to face off in tournament quarterfinalsThe nationwide group, founded in 1999, provides short- and long-term aid to firefighters felled battling wildland blazes, and their families. Many work seasonally and do not qualify for medical and other benefits. Its annual budget of nearly $500,000 helps volunteer firefighters and those who work for federal agencies and municipalities. When Ray Ruiz Sr., a San Diego County Fire Department battalion chief, took ill with an inflamed pancreas in 2005, the foundation and his local firefighting associations paid his bills when he was sidelined. “I went into a coma for a month and a half. During that time I don’t remember anything,” he said. “My vehicle payment was made, my rent was taken care of, food was taken care of. When I was released from the hospital on Christmas Eve they had a Christmas tree and presents all around for all my kids. I didn’t have a worry.” The 34-year fire department veteran – who leads a hotshot crew for the Sycuan Fire Department on that tribe’s El Cajon reservation – has seven children and was hospitalized for six weeks, off work for eight. Lori Greeno’s husband died fighting a fire in Texas. John Greeno was the sole provider for his wife and two children. The 25-year Forest Service veteran in charge of a helicopter crew in the Stanislaus National Forest and two crew members were killed in March 2005 when their helicopter crashed. SANTA CLARITA – The concept of eating on the run will take on new meaning when a firefighter attempts a 25-hour run to raise money for fallen comrades. Kenneth Perry will spend time during his 104-mile June trek from Lancaster to Santa Clarita eating and resting, but pledge donations will fuel him more than calories. “All firefighters run; we have to run to stay in shape,” the 40-year-old Palmdale resident said. “I figured they’d appreciate the endurance aspect of a run rather than a bake sale.” Perry’s solo ultra run last year raised awareness and nearly $46,000, mostly from fellow firefighters, for the nonprofit Wildland Firefighter Foundation. In the same breath, Lori Greeno learned there would be a lag in receiving her husband’s income – but the foundation offers grants of up to $5,000 for families like hers. The money arrived in two days. “To have total strangers do this floored me,” she said. “Since then it’s been tons of emotional support, check on me, check on the kids, they ask `How are you doing?”‘ Greeno repaid the grant after generous donations to her husband’s memorial fund kept the family afloat. “I said, `You use this for the next family. It helped me through the period when I needed money.”‘ Hopes are high that doubling Perry’s distance will more than double the pledges – to $250,000. Nearly $10,000 has been promised so far. Perry will take off about noon on June 2 and plans to arrive at the fire station near the Valencia mall about 1 p.m. the next day. “He’s doing basically four marathons,” said Melissa Schwagerl, a spokeswoman for the Boise, Idaho-based foundation. Perry, a smokejumper for seven years who parachuted into forests to battle fires for the federal Bureau of Land Management, now works as a kind of air traffic controller, directing aerial fire attacks for the BLM from the Fox Air Attack base in Lancaster. His race record over 20-some years includes three ultras – long-distance runs. He packs a very lean body mass and about 130 pounds on his 5-foot-9 frame. The trek along highways and back roads is one-man show, but last year on Texas Canyon between Palmdale and Saugus and Bear Divide south of Santa Clarita hotshot crew members shadowed Perry for a time and others rode in a car caravan and cheered from afar. Perry, who often runs 100 miles a week when priming for a race, is nursing a knee injury that may require arthroscopic surgery. He might wear a knee brace. “In many ways running, which is a stress to the body for many people, can actually build strong bones and allow them to endure longer training and longer running,” said Dr. Anthony Luke, a sports medicine specialist at the University of California, San Francisco’s sports medicine clinic. “(However,) some research has shown that people with pre-existing problems can sometimes worsen with running.” Luke and his colleagues are using special MRIs to learn more. The marathon-running doctor said Perry sits on an extreme end of the bell curve for tackling the feat. “If he can run 104 miles, certainly he would be one of those kind of exceptional athletes,” he said. Perry calls Wendy – his wife of 17 years, who began running a couple of years ago – a good ultra marathon pacer. “That means I’m slow,” quipped Wendy Perry, 41. She says her husband’s contingency planning erases any need for worries about the run. “I know physically he’s completely capable of doing it, but mentally he’ll need some support,” she said. “He will get that from people running with him, people who have pledged money and people on the sidelines cheering him on – that’s what he can’t provide for himself.” Midway through last years’ race Wendy ran seven miles and finished the last nine with her husband. Two bicyclists and a motor home trailing behind Perry – who plans to average about 5 mph – will provide fluids, food and a cool resting place. During the run, Perry will down protein shakes and eat high-fat foods like nuts, potato chips, soup and maybe a couple of cheeseburgers procured by the helpers. Perry’s lumbar spine was fused after he hurt his back in an Alaskan rescue operation six years ago. He says his days as an adrenaline junkie may be waning, but the run is more about goal-setting than gaining glory. “I can’t skydive anymore, I can’t rock climb anymore, I can’t move the way I used to be able to move. I can’t run fast, my leg is still partially paralyzed,” he said. “People get into the marathon, half marathon, 10K, they want to win. This is not about that. This is about the journey.” The people he knows who were hurt or died fighting fires will help him lift his feet thousands of times. “He is somebody who is taking his natural gift and using it to do so much for others,” Wendy said. The foundation may be reached through its Web site, www.wffoundation.org, or call (208) 336-2996. firstname.lastname@example.org (661) 257-5255160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!