Southern Utah University
Southern Utah President Scott L. Wyatt, left, William Heyborne, SUU associate professor of biology, center, and Johnny Oh, the university's director of global engagement, pose prior to the Grand to Grand Ultra, a 170-mile challenge that takes runners from the north rim of the Grand Canyon to the summit of the Grand Staircase. The SUU team is raising money for a future, on-campus child care center. The run got underway Sunday, Sept. 23.

SALT LAKE CITY — Southern Utah University President Scott Wyatt on Sunday embarked on a 170-mile, seven-day run through the Grand Canyon that culminates at the summit of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

Wyatt is taking part in the Grand to Grand Ultra to fundraise for a future on-campus child care center at SUU, the Sorenson Legacy Foundation Child and Family Development Center.

Wyatt and teammates William Heyborne, associate professor of biology at SUU, and Johnny Oh, the university's director of global engagement, are among 135 runners from 22 countries who will traverse high desert, slot canyons and national forests gaining 18,000 feet of elevation along the way.

The six stages of the race range from 8 to 53 miles in length. Runners will camp overnight along the way and are expected to carry all equipment, clothing and food necessary for the seven-day journey.

“I hope we can raise awareness and generate enough support for the child care center,” Wyatt said in a statement prior to the race.

“I want to let students with children — who need to get an education — find the internal strength to finish school and get good jobs. Running/walking 170 miles, mostly in sand, carrying everything we need to survive on our backs will be very difficult. But it doesn’t compare with the day-to-day effort it takes for a mother with small children to take care of them while pushing forward to complete a degree,” Wyatt said.

A year ago, Wyatt witnessed a portion of the race and was invited to assemble a team as a fundraising effort.

“Of course I want to finish, but just being out there in the desert, engaged in an epic struggle between mind, body and heart is enough. We don’t become stronger people living a life of ease. From time to time, we really need to push ourselves, hard. This is one of my favorite things," Wyatt said.

The Sorenson Legacy Foundation Child and Family Development Center aims to help student retention and graduation rates by offering high-quality, on-campus child care, and parent and family support. SUU has raised about $1.3 million for the center through an array of fundraising initiatives.

The child care center will be located in the SUU's current presidential residence at 302 S. 1100 West in Cedar City.

The 11,314-square-foot residence, built in 1996, will be remodeled and repurposed as the Sorenson Legacy Foundation Child and Family Development Center.

The Utah State Board of Regents on Friday gave its approval to the plan to repurpose the residence and designated a 6,028-square-foot residence built in 1979 and contiguous to the campus as the university's new institutional residence.

"The center is intended to replace the child development lab SUU leased at North Elementary School in Cedar City, which was demolished in 2017. The (Iron County) School District did not include new lab space for SUU when constructing a replacement school building. The new center will provide much needed affordable drop-off day care for students. SUU is one of only two Utah institutions not currently providing day care on campus," wrote Marvin Dodge, SUU's vice president of finance and administrative services in a letter to the Utah Commissioner of Higher Education David Buhler.

Anticipating the race, Heyborne said he was nervous and excited.

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“It helps that we have a purpose in mind, so when we’re out on the trail and it’s hard and we want to give up, we can think about this cause that we’re running for," Heyborne said in a statement.

Describing SUU's team as the "three musketeers," Oh said he was excited for "an awesome adventure. We’ll run from the rim of the Grand Canyon to the summit of the Grand Staircase over the next seven days. And now gentlemen, all for one, one for all!”

The race concludes Saturday. To track the progress of SUU team and all runners, visit the Grand to Grand Ultra website.