Saturday, December 06, 2008

Long Journey for Barefoot Teen Nears Completion

Dashiel Alsup can't help but look back on the seven months since he stepped away from the cold waters of the Pacific Ocean and started walking toward Florida. The first week was brutal: his feet were coated with blisters, he was consumed with loneliness and plagued with doubts about ever reaching the East Coast. 
"Florida felt like a fairly impossible goal," he says. 
But Dash kept walking, mile after mile.
The 19-year-old encountered wild animals in the cold Oregon mountains and suffered through 100+ degree heat walking through the Flaming Gorge in Utah during a scorching week. 
"Yeah, those were hot days, and 60 miles between stops," he said. "But coming into Vernal, Utah and getting to the 7-11 to pick up an ice cold 44 ounce Big Gulp was joyous," he says, laughing.

Dash kept walking, steadily achieving 20-25 miles per day, mostly barefoot, through ColoradoKansas and Missouri
"There were a few times that I had to put on sandals, when the road conditions were just too hot or the debris was so bad," he says.

He lost count of the number of people who gave him food or gave him a place to stay for the night, insisting on feeding him dinner, or sharing their faith. 
"America is full of incredibly gracious people," he says. "I can't tell you how many times someone went out of their way to help me. They had no idea what I was up to, they were just doing it from their heart."

There were also times his safety was in doubt. Occasionally, locals would confront him about his intentions before they realized he was supporting charity. Dash spent one day working for a man who had spent 11 years in prison for drug smuggling. 
"Here we are alone, deep in the woods, and I'm hauling brush while he's getting sauced and revving up his chainsaw," Dash says. "Turns out he was a good guy; he just wanted someone to confide in, not chop into pieces."
Dash started appearing in newspaper stories and being featured on television, especially in Nashville, where Soles4Souls is based. He walked together with charity Founder, Wayne Elsey, to a local shelter to distribute shoes to the homeless.
"He is a special kid, and there's no doubt his commitment to helping people is authentic," says Elsey. "Just look at all the fans he has who are following his epic journey. We're proud to be associated with him."
He walked southeast through Georgia, sensing the end of the journey and counting down the number of miles to Jacksonville. Today, he's less than 100 miles from the end of his journey, and hundreds of supporters and Soles4Souls staff will be on hand to walk with him to the Atlantic. Even several NFL players from the Jacksonville Jaguars will be in attendance and participate in another shoe distribution for homeless in their city.
"I'm happy that I can bring some attention to Soles4Souls," he says. "It's a simple thing, you know, putting shoes on people's feet. For people without shoes, it can mean the world."

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