When Toledo native Jeff Alt hiked the 2,160-mile Appalachian Trail in 147 days almost 10 years ago, he did not suspect the experience would have turned into such a life-changing event.
But it has, and he writes about it in - A Walk for Sunshine - a new chapter, an epilogue, to his wonderful account of the Trail and why he made the hike.
"Ten years ago next March I began this walk in Georgia," Alt said in an interview this week from Cincinnati, where he lives with his wife, Beth, daughter, Madison, almost 3, and six-week-old son, William Jeffrey.
"It's just hard to imagine where we are today. Ten years have passed. It's taken on a life of its own. That's how big it's become."
What Alt was describing was the cause for which he walked - supporting the programs of Sunshine, Inc., of Northwest Ohio, in Monclova Township. That is where his brother, Aaron, 34, who has cerebral palsy, has resided for 15 years.
Since completing the rugged, challenging Georgia-to-Maine trail, Alt has joined an annual Walk for Sunshine to raise additional funds for the home's programs. In nine years the walks and the hike have raised more than $125,000 to benefit persons with disabilities served by Sunshine.
Author Jeff Alt has daughter, Madison, on his back as he walks with stepmother Sue Alt; his father Mike pushes Jeff s brother, Aaron, in a wheelchair, all for the annual Walk with Sunshine.
For the last several years proceeds have been used to support the agency's animal activities program, Sunshine Acres. The walk this year, set for Sept. 8, is aimed to provide operating funds for a therapeutic horseback riding center planned for the Sunshine campus beginning this fall.
"This year we expect 300 walkers," said Alt. He will be carrying his daughter in a pack on his back - "I carried her across 55 miles of Ireland on my back last summer." He also said that infant William will be along too. "He's already been on the AT in the Shenandoah Mountains in Virginia."
The Sept. 8 Walk for Sunshine begins at 9:30 a.m. at Monclova School on Monclova Road and heads for a three-mile route on the Wabash Cannonball Trail. Check-in is set for 4 to 6 p.m. Sept. 7 at the development office at Sunshine, Inc., 7223 Maumee-Western Rd., or Sept. 8 at the walk. Advance registration can be done on-line at www.walkwithsunshine.com.
As for the updated and reissued A Walk for Sunshine, Alt reflects in the epilogue what he has taken with him from the Trail, among them:
That humor takes the pain out of difficult times.
That the simplest things have the biggest rewards.
That you should pursue your dreams - now.
That hiking the AT is 2,000 miles of problem-solving.
Sharing a dream brings amazing results.
Most important of all is Alt's closing acknowledgment of the importance of including the whole family, especially the children, in outdoor activities to foster an appreciation of nature, to nurture the importance of Earth stewardship, and to stay healthy and fit.
His thoughts and philosophy closely parallel those detailed in Richard Louv's critical, thoughtful, must-read 2005 work, Last Child in the Woods.
"Some lessons are harder to apply than others, and that's why I repeatedly return to the trail for a refresher on its simple and profound lessons," writes Alt in his closing.
"My current adventure is raising my children. Children are just as fragile as our environment, and our kids are the key to preserving it. I believe that taking my family on outdoor adventures will develop healthy, well-rounded kids who will grow up to carry the torch of preserving our nation's great trails.
"My wish is that my children will discover their own dreams and passions, whatever they may be. I hope that one day my children will reach their own Mount Katahdins."
One suspects that Alt's wishes will come true.
A lottery drawing for hunting Canada geese at Maumee Bay State Park during the state's special early goose season is set for Thursday at 3 p.m.
Hunting is to be allowed by draw from Sept. 4 through 7 and on Sept. 10 and 11 during the Sept. 1 to Sept. 15 season. Two hunters will be allowed per blind, hunting from sunrise till 11 a.m. daily.
To apply for the drawing submit a postcard with name, address, and telephone number, plus name and address of a guest, to Special Goose Hunt, Maumee Bay State Park, 1400 State Park Rd., Oregon, 43618.
Only one card is allowed per hunter, and all successful applicants will be notified by phone.
Deer hunting author Joe Brooks will be signing his book, Year-Round Trophy Whitetails, today and next Saturday and Sunday at Cabela's in Dundee, Mich. He also will be presenting a seminar each of the days at 2 p.m. on gaining access to trophy-producing private land.
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