When Wichita East High School senior Matthew Heck called his friend Adrian Love last fall and explained his idea to raise awareness of genocide in Darfur, Love was skeptical of the plan.
But as Heck persisted in discussing a relay race from Wichita to Washington, D.C., Love caved in.
"It was about to fall apart, and I couldn't let that happen," Love said.
Heck, a 17-year-old senior at Wichita East, said the whole idea to run to the capital began as a joke. But when he realized it could be possible, he started planning the Never Ignore, Never Forget relay.
"We all care about the fact that genocide is occurring in the world, and because of that it's just like an extension of what we believe in, and we all believe genocide is wrong," he said, as the group paused Tuesday at South Park on their way to De Soto. Their trek started Monday in Wichita.
The runners, most of whom are students at Wichita East or recent graduates, Heck's parents and the school's assistant track and cross country coach, Darham Rogers, are looking to raise $100,000 to donate to the Genocide Intervention Network.
When they get to Washington on June 20, they hope to meet with U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback and other lawmakers to discuss the crisis in Darfur and how the United States can halt the violence.
"As teenagers, we hope we can reach them in a different way than typical lobbyists can," Heck said. The runners range in age from 16 to 19.
Rogers, 26, who is also a social studies teacher at the high school, said the initiative the runners are taking is impressive.
"The reason people get into teaching is to have your kids do something like this," he said.