Mike Ross and Drew Babcock, both 19, answered the door at Jones Sheep Farm Bed and Breakfast Monday evening with smiles and hearty handshakes. The two young men, from Manchester, Conn., are walking across America to raise money and awareness about cancer.
A third member of their team, George Crawford, recently branched out on his own, hoping to walk a brisk 30 miles a day. All three young men plan to reach the west coast this winter — Crawford in December and Ross and Babcock in February.
The men are on a delayed entry program into the armed forces and decided while they waited to be called, they could do something worthwhile, interesting, and fun.
“And we have had some good times,” Ross said. “We have met tons of people, most of whom want to give us a place to stay, a hot meal, donations for the cause, and just be good human beings.”
Ross and Babcock have set a goal of raising $20,000 for the LiveStrong Foundation to benefit cancer patients.
“That was another reason George decided to split off and go on his own,” Ross said. “We have raised just over $5,000 and Emporia was the half-way mark for our trip. We thought if we split up, we might capture more donations.”
Babcock said the funds they raise for the foundation provide services and resources to help cancer patients and their families fight the disease head-on.
“Whatever they need — if it is just a ride to take treatments or if they need assistance to pay for the treatment itself — LiveStrong uses what we raise to directly serve those diagnosed with cancer,” he said.
Both men have had family and friends diagnosed with cancer and helping fight the disease is important to them.
Ross and Babcock spent Sunday night in Florence and headed to Peabody in the rain Monday morning. Sherri Gerety received word that they were on their way and drove out to meet them and bring them to Peabody.
She took them to lunch and discovered that Ross had spot on his shoulder where his backpack had rubbed away a patch of skin. He was concerned about developing an infection, so Gerety took them to Hillsboro for medical treatment. The Peabody Ministerial Alliance agreed to cover the cost of an exam and medication.
They spent the night as guests at the bed and breakfast and on Tuesday morning Gerety took them to Newton. Their trip will continue across Kansas on U.S. 50.
Ross and Babcock keep in touch with their families through a blog and a Facebook page. Their walk also is publicized on the LiveStrong web site.
“One of the most amazing things we have discovered is how nice people in the Midwest are,” Ross said. “We did a great deal of camping on the first leg of our journey, some of it in pretty bad weather. But since we got into Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, and Kansas, I bet 75 percent of our overnight stays are with people willing to put us up or get us a room at a hotel or bed and breakfast.
“It has really rekindled my faith in humanity,” he added.
“This has been a good life experience,” Babcock said. “Some of it blurs together after awhile, but we have run into some great people and we’ll remember lots of them.”
To follow Ross and Babcock as they head west, go to http://walkingforacure2013.com or follow them on Facebook at walkingforacure.