Human Etch-a-Sketch brings the loving memory of son who died of childhood cancer to Columbia race

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - This is Rik Zortman and he calls himself the human Etch-a-Sketch - sketching messages in every route he runs.

He does this to honor his 3-year-old son and for those battling cancer and on Saturday, he did both in Columbia. But it takes time.

First, he finds the gridded streets on a map. He then plots out the name on a piece of paper. Then, he takes off. Using his GPS fitness tracker to run the routes of children's names who are battling cancer.

The Iowa father has sketched nearly 400 names around the United States and tells me he has no intentions to stop. All of this work is for Armstrong and to touch the lives of many.

"She had her head in her hands she was crying, I was crying, and she gave me a big hug," Zortman said. "She goes 'I would say you have no idea what this means but apparently you do' because I just surprised her by writing her son's name. So I wanted her to feel the emotion as far as seeing what she just ran her son's name that passed away 13 years ago."

After losing his son to brain cancer, Zortman said he didn't know how much time he would have left.

"Would we remember him as the loving 3-year-old blonde hair blue eyed kid, or would we remember him as the one who had cancer?" Zortman asked.

The answer, made more clear through running now that same question is answered, for others.

"By running all these different names, I think of other people and I think of other kids and other situations," Zortman said. "98 percent of the time I get a name, I run a name, I post it online, I don't see their reaction and I just move on to the next name."

"When I do see that interaction with others I can guarantee I'm going to cry," he continued. "My son is the reason why I run and he's the reason why I sketch names for others."

Rik loves hearing new stories and running new names, so if you have a name you'd like Rik to run, click here to find out more.

Copyright 2018 WIS. All rights reserved.