Billy Mills knows a thing a two about racing.
“Billy Mills, he’s a hero to us. We are proud of him,” Steve Cadue, chairman of the Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas said.
Now the Kansas legend is giving back to his heritage and the sport in which he triumphed.
“The Kickapoo Reservation is his home, he’s back home,” Cadue said.
The Olympic gold medalist is still running after nearly 50 years since he set the American record in 10,000 meters. However, his race has shifted to the field of helping others.
“Once I won a gold medal at the Olympic Games I knew I orchestrated it, I knew I choreographed it but shortly after I realized it was a gift and I had to give back,” Mills said.
Mills teamed up with Cadue to create a cross country park, walking trails, arboretum and historic tribal center to bring attention to healthy lifestyles.
“The Billy Mills project is for fitness and fighting diabetes,” Cadue said.
Land to develop a new cross country facility is currently underway in the Kickapoo Nation near Horton. The park will be named after the Olympic champion.
“The Billy Mills Kickapoo project will become a premier destination, a tourist attraction for the Kickapoo nation,” Cadue said.
Mills is now a professional speaker. He shared an inspirational story of his magical victory at the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
“It’s a far more important race,” Mills said. “You win a gold medal at the Olympic games, or you set a world record; those are wonderful things. A lot of people in the Native American world have experienced broken hearts or broken wings. I had broken wings. I put down a dream: Gold medal in the 10,000 meter run and I put my heart and sole into pursuing that dream.”
Mills’ victory is considered one of the greatest moments in Olympic history.
“Just bless the grounds that creator of Mother Earth would help all who run on the trail, help all who visit, and help all who come to this community leave a better person,” Mills said.
Scheduled completion for the entire project is expected to take three to five years but racing could begin as early as next year.