Ever since 36-year-old Tommy Danger left behind the flatlands of Indiana—and his past as a poor, overweight kid nicknamed Fat Tom who liked to catch frogs and snakes just for fun—he's been obsessed with adventuring and pushing the limits in running, biking, high altitude climbing, and traveling. But it isn't a selfish endeavor. Danger, who splits his time between living in Park City, Utah, and Anchorage, Alaska, has devoted his entire life to loving others and driving awareness to causes around the world.
Currently, he's climbing the Seven Summits to shine a light on Cystic Fibrosis (CF) and raise as much money as he can. He'll attempt the last mountain on his list, Everest, in the spring. And his sponsors—Big Agnes, Zeal Optics, Granite Gear, KÜHL, and a number of other brands—are cheering him on and providing him gear. We talked with Danger about his journey to starting his nonprofit and what he's learned along the way.
Why did you start More Than Just Me? And how does it tie in with your adventures?
After I rode my bike from Los Angeles to Boston, I wanted to start a nonprofit. That was 11 years ago. Then I ran across the country from Seattle to Daytona Beach in 2012 and I did it to raise awareness for CF. One of my good friend's sons was born with it. I learned that it was genetic and causes persistent lung infections and over time, limits the ability to breathe. No one really knows about it. Only 70,000 people in the world have it and that's small compared to other diseases. I started the run knowing one person with it. Over six and a half months of running across the country, this community built and built and started following me. By the time I finished the run, there were thousands around the world that were following the run, but also my new friends.
I finished on April 13 and 12 days later, I officially started the nonprofit, More Than Just Me. For the past five years, we've been raising awareness for CF. But my whole concept is that we’re going to create this athlete ambassador base. They get to work with whatever cause they want to work with. That way they’re passionate about it and it’s almost in a way like cross promoting.
What do you do with the money you raise?
When we fundraise, it doesn’t go toward me climbing mountains. I go after corporate sponsors for that. It goes toward a bunch of cool programs and events. As the foundation grows and we get more ambassadors on board, they’ll be able to work with the cause of their choice. Recently, I ran for 24 hours and people donated per mile. We raised just over $10K—our largest fundraiser to date. We put that toward a new program called The Breath of Relaxation.
It's geared toward parents of children with CF. They don’t have the disease but they have lived with the disease too. So we created these relaxation trips for them. The first one is in Alaska in fall 2019. They’ll fly into Anchorage, we’ll drive them over to these cabins out from the city, and then from there, we’re taking them on a helicopter ride to a glacier. We’ll hike the glacier and then kayak around ice bergs. Then they’ll come back and they’ll all get to talk. There might be a parent whose child passed away at age 45. Then there might be a parent who's 23 and just learned that their child has CF and they have no idea what it means. They’ll get to learn from each other.
What's something that keeps you going?
When I was running across the country, I stopped in Texas. There’s a bunch of people with cystic fibrosis around the Dallas area. One guy I met said, "Hey man, I just want to say thanks for running for us." And I said no problem. And he was like, “No really. I’ve been struggling and I was ready to die.” He goes on to say he read this story about some guy running across the country to help him and the CF community. He said he started going to the gym and wanted to start living again. Two years ago, he had a double lung transplant and now the dude has the ability to live 20 to 25 more years, at least. That's really when I realized what I'm doing literally changed a human’s life. And now he’s constantly going out and spreading positivity. How many lives has he changed? One small little thing changes one life, but it can lead to changing thousands of lives.
Support Danger's journey and learn more about CF at mtmj.org.