IMPACT
09/12/2014 06:03 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

11-Year-Old Runs A Marathon On Every Continent, Raises $40,000 For Kids In Need

Nikolas Toocheck became the youngest person to complete marathons on every continent Saturday when he conquered one in the Caucasus Mountains and crossed Asia off his list. But the most aspirational quality about the 11-year-old may have less to do with his physical stamina and more to do with his generous heart.

With each step taken, Nikolas has raised money for kids in need of coats, donating those funds toward Operation Warm -- a nonprofit his grandfather founded. The sixth-grader -- who isn't old enough to join his school's cross country team, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported -- has raised more than $40,000 for the nonprofit, providing more than 2,000 children in need with new coats, according to the organization.

"I realized early on that you don’t have to be big to make a positive difference in the world," he told the nonprofit.

Nikolas raises funds for Operation Warm through the philanthropic campaign he started about two years ago, Running the World for Children. His goal is to eventually raise $1 million for the organization.

According to Montgomery Media, Nikolas had run races in the U.S., Zimbabwe, Switzerland, Chile, Antarctica and Australia before completing his race on Saturday in the country of Georgia. Marathon Tours & Travel, which specializes in travel services for runners, said most of the 450 people who have completed the seven-continent feat have been in their 40s and 50s, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Operation Warm works with local partners across the country, such as schools, public and private agencies, rotary clubs and firefighter departments, to channel new coats to children who need them most. The organization believes the service they provide benefits children's educational opportunities, too, as poor families "prioritize food, heat and rent above winter clothing, resulting in frequent absenteeism from school." Last year, Operation Warm provided coats for about 210,000 kids in 43 states and Washington, D.C.

And it's those kids that inspire Nikolas to keep running.

"Whenever I'm feeling tired or feel like I want to stop," he told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "I just think about the kids who don't have coats to warm them. And I think I'm so lucky I have coats to keep me warm."

While Nikolas' mother, Tara, said she is "freaking out on this side of the world" when she's away from her son while he participates in races thousands of miles away, the invaluable lessons gained are well worth her nerves.

"His determination, commitment and resiliency are amazing," she told The Huffington Post in an email. "This whole experience isn't really about the running to me. It's about a child developing amazing character with compassion and learning about the world -- his role in it, that it is so much more than himself, and the impact one person can make to change the world."

Watch video footage from Nikolas' first marathon in 2012.

To learn more about Operation Warm, visit its website.

HuffPost

BEFORE YOU GO

  • Flowers lie on the finish line of the Boston Marathon on the one-year anniversary of the bombing.
    Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images
    Flowers lie on the finish line of the Boston Marathon on the one-year anniversary of the bombing.
  • Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick walks with his wife, Diane (left), and the family of Martin Richard, the 8-year-old boy kill
    Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
    Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick walks with his wife, Diane (left), and the family of Martin Richard, the 8-year-old boy killed by a bomb at the marathon last year.
  • Martin Richard's family stands during the wreath-laying ceremony.
    Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
    Martin Richard's family stands during the wreath-laying ceremony.
  • Boston Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley meets with the family of Martin Richardson.
    Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images
    Boston Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley meets with the family of Martin Richardson.
  • A woman cries during the wreath-laying ceremony.
    Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images
    A woman cries during the wreath-laying ceremony.
  • A supporter pauses to reflect.
    Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images
    A supporter pauses to reflect.
  • A runner runs underneath the Boston Marathon finish line photo bridge on the morning of the one-year anniversary
    Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images
    A runner runs underneath the Boston Marathon finish line photo bridge on the morning of the one-year anniversary
  • Runner speaks to Boston police officers at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on the morning of the anniversary.
    Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images
    Runner speaks to Boston police officers at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on the morning of the anniversary.
  • Members of the Boston Police Department, Boston Fire Department and Massachusetts State Police practice marching prior to the
    Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images
    Members of the Boston Police Department, Boston Fire Department and Massachusetts State Police practice marching prior to the ceremony.
  • Members of the Boston Police Department, Boston Fire Department and Massachusetts State Police before ceremony.
    Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images
    Members of the Boston Police Department, Boston Fire Department and Massachusetts State Police before ceremony.
  • Members of the Boston Police Department, Boston Fire Department and Massachusetts State Police practice ahead of ceremony.
    Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images
    Members of the Boston Police Department, Boston Fire Department and Massachusetts State Police practice ahead of ceremony.
  • Police officers carry flags during wreath-laying ceremony.
    Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images
    Police officers carry flags during wreath-laying ceremony.
  • Massachusetts state and local police and fire department members present flags during ceremony.
    Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
    Massachusetts state and local police and fire department members present flags during ceremony.
  • Members of the Boston Police Department, Boston Fire Department and Massachusetts State Police before the ceremony.
    Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images
    Members of the Boston Police Department, Boston Fire Department and Massachusetts State Police before the ceremony.
  • The family of Martin Richard, along with Boston mayor Marty Walsh, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and other members of the
    Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
    The family of Martin Richard, along with Boston mayor Marty Walsh, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and other members of the victims families.
  • A Boston police officer waves traffic across the finish line of the Boston Marathon on the one-year anniversary.
    Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images
    A Boston police officer waves traffic across the finish line of the Boston Marathon on the one-year anniversary.
  • Mass. state and local police and fire department members stand near the site of one of the bombs.
    Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
    Mass. state and local police and fire department members stand near the site of one of the bombs.
  • Gov. Deval Patrick shakes hands with Cardinal O'Malley.
    Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
    Gov. Deval Patrick shakes hands with Cardinal O'Malley.
  • A knitted tribute hangs on a street light along the course of the Boston Marathon.
    Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images
    A knitted tribute hangs on a street light along the course of the Boston Marathon.
  • Flowers lie at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
    Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images
    Flowers lie at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
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