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More Behind the Coast 2 Coast Dribble

By STEPHEN A. DECKARD 

 

Martin County native Steven J. Cooper started a 3,777 mile run journey at Coronado Island, California, on July 3rd (7-3) this year, with plans to finish at the Basketball Hall of Fame, on the other side of the United States, in Massachusetts, this Veteran’s Day, November 11th. He runs and dribbles a basketball daily to achieve his goal, and his cross-country trek landed him in Shoals and Loogootee last weekend. 

 

His theory about his quest is to just “Keep On Keepin’ On!” 

 

He is also trying to raise funds for many charities along the way. 

Several months ago he started the 7773 Foundation to assist the charities. 

 

You can go to his website at 7773Foundation.org, and read about the foundation, as well as make donations. 

 

Steven, age 50, named the Foundation as such since his present home is located at Cornelius, North Carolina, near Charlotte. He lives close to the intersection of Interstate 77 and Highway 73. 

For several years, however, his work has taken him to the West Coast states, and he enjoys juants to Hawaii. 

 

For the Kauai Marathon this September 4th, he left his run while in Oklahoma, drove to Dallas and caught a flight to Hawaii for the run, and then flew back to Dallas. This marathon was part of Steve’s current challenge to run and dribble a basketball 3,777 miles across the country. 

 

The run is actually a personal challenge to “Coop,” as well as to those he meets along the journey. His advice to all is that anyone can accomplish anything they set their mind to. “I’m challenging myself and trying to honor our loved ones who have passed on and pay tribute to them and also encourage and inspire our youth, and that’s why I’m doing this run,” Steven said. 

 

He pointed out that he had traveled about 2,700 miles by the time he hit Martin County, all by state and rural roads. It is illegal to run along Interstates, he explained. 

 

On this challenge, by the time he arrived in Shoals last Friday night, October 7th, he had already worn out 5 basketballs, and 5 pair of shoes. He uses two brands of shoes, the Hoka One, and Altra. 

 

He runs rain or shine, and has utilized a rainsuit. Heat in the dessert, at around 119 degrees, made for a tough run, he added. He was forced to take 5 days off when he had to make a stop in a hospital emergency room at Kingman, Arizona, where doctors told him he was not properly hydrated or salted, at the time. They suggested a couple of weeks delay, but Steven got back on course after only 5 days. 

 

“Coop” was inspired to dribble and run when promoters for the 2011 Carrier Classic offered fans tickets to the basketball game, which featured the University of North Carolina playing against Michigan State on the USS Carl Vinson, a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, on November 11, 2011. Steven is a huge North Carolina fan, although he loves several teams. In order to get on board the ship, you either had to be a Veteran, military personnel, or do something special to attain seating. While running the Marine Corps Marathon, Cooper had a vision. “When they handed me my water, it came to me: I need a basketball,” he said. “I saw a kid pulling a rickshaw. I went up to him and asked him where I can get a basketball. All I 

had on me was a $20 bill. If you can find one, bring it back to me, meet me at the finish, and I’ll make it more than you make out here in a week.” 

Cooper got his basketball, dribbled 11.11 miles of that marathon, donated to the Marine Corps Marathon Scholarship fund foundation, and got to watch the game. 

 

“That’s why this dribble across the USA started at the Coronado Island naval ship,” he said. “That’s what inspired me to start dribbling, now over 25 miles a day.” 

 

In 2009, Steve weighed in at 220 pounds. At his lowest weight, Cooper tipped the scales at 148 pounds. “I woke up one day and I looked in the mirror. I looked at myself and I’m like, ‘If I don’t like to look at this, then who would want to look at this?’ he said. “I climbed up the stairs and couldn’t breathe anymore. I got tired of it.” He couldn’t run a mile at that time. 

 

Four months later, he ran The Los Angeles Marathon. 

 

“Nobody ever thinks they’re going to run one,” Cooper said. “When you do, then it’s in your blood. Then you gotta have the next challenge.” 

 

After his grandmother, Ethel Tow, died August 31, 2009, Cooper decided to run the 2010 Kauai Marathon in her honor. He hasn’t missed the marathon since then. “It’s sentimental to me, and it’s one of the best put on events I’ve ever attended,” he said. At the 2010 marathon, Steven was inspired by renowned runner Bart Yasso, the “Mayor of Running,” who attended the Kauai marathon. “On the plane flight back to Los Angeles, I was reading Bart’s book and I found my next challenge: 56 miles in South Africa,” he said, calling that run “the toughest one I’ve ever done,” Steve stated. 

 

The year after that, “Coop” found himself running the Lean Horse 100, his first 100-mile race, and within a month, he ran his second 100 miler. He then decided to run a marathon every weekend, if possible. 

 

In 2015, “Coop” was invited to join the Race Across the USA team, a team that runs across the United States to raise money for charitable organizations. 

 

Due to work related issues, he only ran about 270 miles, from Huntington Beach, California, to Parker, Arizona. 

 

His business, Cooper Machinery, was working for SpaceX, in California, who had purchased three additional machines from his firm. Cooper had to decide to run and dribble and leave SpaceX hanging, or remain and get SpaceX projects completed. 

 

He was able to dribble across California with the team, then return to the projects. 

 

Upon completing the SpaceX projects, he trained and has now put into place two technicians to make sure SpaceX is properly taken care of while he is on this journey. 

 

Steven has been noted to travel around the country with an oil painting, which appears in several photos he takes. He purchased the painting from friend, artist and musician Micah Nelson, one of Willie’s sons. He asked Micah to paint a picture for him as a gift for someone, but Micah painted it with Steve in mind. The art, which also now appears on the back of Steven’s coach, as well as t-shirts, depicts 

Micah’s version of the “Occupy Mars” mission of SpaceX, and is a conversation piece in regards to Cooper’s work with SpaceX. 

 

Just before the team’s journey began, Stuart Scott had passed, and just as the team was finishing crossing California, Coach Dean Smith passed. Then in March, Steven’s mother, Wanda Cooper, was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. 

 

“The visions kept coming to me, that I was to dribble the basketball ‘coast 2 coast’ for many reasons. I have been a lifetime follower of Tar Heel basketball since 1977, and also a follower of the Maui Invitational since 1984, attending since 2004. He knew that the Tar Heels would be on Maui in 2016. During the Maui ceremony, he learned that there would be a new fund created in honor of Coach Smith, The Dean E. Smith Opening Doors Fund. There is also a fund set up in honor of Stuart Scott, The Stuart Scott Memorial Cancer Research Fund. Scott was an ESPN sportscaster who passed away in 2015. Most people do one purpose one cause. “From being mentored from a distance by Coach Smith, it was on my heart to help and assist multiple charities,” said Steve. 

 

Cooper Machinery has also done work for Tesla, the all-electric auto, and a Tesla Steve purchased is traveling along on this Coast 2 Coast run. He has let many friends and acquaintances test drive the remarkable car, which is also the fastest production car ever made, and plans on using this Tesla, manufactured last November, as a fundraiser for his 7773 Foundation. 

 

You will be able to get further info on the Tesla fundraiser when everything is finalized, and it will be promoted on his website, 7773Foundation.org. 

 

The varied list of charities that “Coop” is dribbling for to this point includes the 7773 Foundation, 100 Mile Club, The Wonder Glo Foundation, the Chaminade University Athletic Department, the Opening Doors Fund, the Stuart Scott Fund, Motor Racing Outreach, the Jimmy V Foundation, and Farm Aid. 

 

Along the route, in New Mexico, a small female stray puppy was waiting outside the coach near an Indian reservation. The puppy, tagged along for about 8 miles, and after a stop by Steven, went another 8 miles, not stopping or turning back. Steven, and crew, “adopted” the little pup and named her “Navajo.” She has continued the trek ever since. 

 

His Martin County stay actually ended Monday, and he was planning to run to Bloomington and take a tour of the Assembly Hall, where the Hoosiers play. A run around the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway is also hopefully on his agenda before leaving Indiana. Steven has paid tribute to many college teams along his journey, and changes his running attire to correspond to what team’s area he is in. 

 

The Tesla Model S P90D which was viewed by many while in Martin County, is the fastest production vehicle made, and will do 0 to 60 miles per hour in 2.85 seconds. It is powered by a 90 KW dual electric motor, with a range of 253 miles when fully charged. 

 

“Coops” personal motor home also accompanies him, which is a 2007 Beaver Contessa, which gets about 5 miles per gallon, and currently features very special graphics for his foundation, the Coast 2 Coast route, and Tesla. Steve added that Tesla has “approved” the use of their logo, but the company has not “endorsed” his project. Also on the run/dribble is the 2006 Ho-da CR-V sport utility which was once owned by “Coop’s” mother, Wanda. Wanda was a beautician here and operated Ethel’s Beauty 

Salon along with her late mother. The salon celebrated 75 years in business last year, as it was founded by Ethel on March 11, 1940. Wanda passed away on August 3, 2015, (at the age of 73) and was honored by the Shoals community by being named the Grand Marshal of the Catfish Festival Parade in 2015, just a month before her death. Ethel had received the same honor as Grand Marshal in 2001. “Coop’s” father was the late Charles R. “Slick” Cooper, who died January 26, 2013. 

 

Steven’s sister, Denise Matheis, of Loogootee, is among those who have been traveling along on the journey. Starting on the run was Alfredo “Freddy” Sanchez, of the Los Angeles, California, area, and currently assisting in driving the Beaver Contessa/and or Tesla support vehicles is Charlie Hook, of Maui, Hawaii. 

 

According to Steve, they average staying in a hotel about one night a week, the remainder in the motor home. 

 

While he is just a bit behind schedule, Steven still hopes to participate in the New York City Marathon November 6th, and be at the Hall of Fame by Veteran’s Day (to also honor all Veterans). His schedule, as you can imagine, changes daily . . . and by the hour. 

 

It’s quite the challenge, but we know “Coop” will “hang loose” and succeed. He will “Keep On Keepin’ On.” We pray for his safe, and speedy journey across the United States. God speed, Steve.