Walking 3,800 miles for kids —Already wearing fifth pair of tennis shoes!

Stacie Eichinger is walking across America to raise awareness for Beads of Courage. She walked through Howard County on Oct. 3-4.

Stacie Eichinger is walking across America to raise awareness for Beads of Courage. She walked through Howard County on Oct. 3-4.

By Marcie Klomp

Stacie Eichinger of Tucson, Ariz. is already on her fifth pair of shoes as she walks across America spreading the word about Beads of Courage. She’ll probably go through another five before making her goal.

Some locals may have seen her walking along Hwy. 63 on Thursday, Oct. 3 on her way from Chester/LeRoy to her overnight stop at Marian Anderlik’s home in Cresco.

Beads of Courage is a program where young cancer victims are given beads to show their progression through the disease. Founder of the organization, Jean Baruch, noticed that beads made children feel good, so she used them as a base. After every milestone, a participant in the program receives a bead to add to his or her collection (yellow for an overnight hospital stay, white for chemotherapy, blue for a clinic visit, red for blood transfusion and a glow-in-the-dark one for radiation). The website (www.beadsofcourage.org) explained some children can have beads up to 35 ft. long! That’s a lot for one little kid to go through.

Eichinger read the book “Walk Across America” by Peter Jenkins 12 years ago in high school. She made a similar “walk” her goal. The cause she chose to support was Beads of Courage because she had volunteered at its headquarters in Tucson for two years.

She started her walk on May 8 at Ocean Shores, Wash. and plans to walk all the way into February, until she hits the shores of Savannah, Ga., 3,800 miles later.

 

Eichinger hadn’t planned on going through Iowa, but sometimes plans change. She relies on the helpfulness of strangers, many of whom give her food, a place to sleep and donations.

She says there are so many nice folks out there. One of the incidents that stands out more than the rest was a day Montana. “It was a hot, nasty day. Some kids stopped to talk and then invited me on a white water rafting trip. They even fed me lunch!”

She averages 20-25 miles per day and tries to have a plan for where she is staying each night. Eichinger has good luck with her Facebook page (Walk 4 Courage). That’s how she found her stops at Cresco and Decorah and a free motel night in Waukon. Wednesday night she was able to stay with an uncle from Mason City she hadn’t seen since she was 16. “It felt great to have four nights planned out. That usually doesn’t happen,” she said,

When she doesn’t have a house to stay at, she looks for a campground, fire station and has even been known to just stay on the side of the road.

She travels with her cart, which carries some needed personal belongings. It has a baby carriage frame and other things welded on. The cart also holds beads that she passes out to children at hospitals along her route. In all, she plans to visit 20 hospitals as she spreads the word. Each child also receives a card with how many miles she walked so far and what states she has traveled through.

She got a little wet with the Thursday showers but was glad she missed the three feet of snow in South Dakota. “One of the ladies where I stayed just sent me a message that she was so glad I was not there!”

She was able to spend some time at Lime Springs Travel Plaza and even got a free lunch from some nice ladies.

She walked the Granger Road and got to Anderlik’s house around 6 p.m., when supper was ready for her. Anderlik said the first thing she wanted to do was take a shower!

“She’s quite a delightful girl. She has little or no fear of anything. She’s been on every continent except Antarctica.” Anderlik is quite the world traveler herself, but admitted Eichinger has been to more places in Africa than she had!

Anderlik hadn’t even heard of Beads of Courage until recently. She was talking to her friend, former Howard Countian Linda Miller of California, who had read about it on Facebook. “She asked me if I knew anyone who would be interested in letting her stay overnight. I said, ‘Linda. You know I would be willing to do that!’” And she did and found it was a good experience.

Anyone wanting to help Eichinger with her traveling expenses or donate to Beads of Courage can go to any of these pages:

http://www.walk4courage.com.

Facebook: Walk 4 Courage

http://www.beadsofcourage.org

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