PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Ian Cummins has 775 miles behind him and 2,200 more to go.
He has a lot on his mind.
“Still asking the questions. Is my brother still, is he still with me? Is he walking beside me? I believe that he is,” Cummins said.
KDKA-TV’s Mary Robb Jackson found 23-year-old Ian along Route 60, not far from Owensboro, Ky. His walk across America is a quest.
“I want people to see what, you know, what I’m doing, to hear Ryan’s story and to be able to share their own stories with the people they meet,” Ian says.
Like one morning, as Ian checked out of a hotel.
“She just came out of the elevator. She said, ‘Are you that guy walking across the country?’ And I said, ‘Yeah.’ And she said, ‘I just lost my son to suicide, (he was) 21,” Ian says.
The death, last November, of Ian’s 20-year-old brother, Ryan prompted the first steps of this journey.
Web Extra: Ian Walks America (Part 1)
Ryan James Cummins was both exceedingly bright and fragile. Chronic depression, beginning in his teens, led to a mind muddled by mental illness.
“Just the people I meet, I feel like, you know, that’s him. He’s with me. He’s got some say on what’s going on here,” Ian says.
After 60 days on the road, Ian has only had to camp out one night.
More: Ian Walks America Links
As he arrived at Owensboro’s VFW-696 there was a sign out front reading “We welcome Ian on his walk for awareness.”
A couple of days ago, Tensley “Huck” Huskisson, got a call from a fellow veteran in a neighboring town.
“He called and says, ‘We got a young man that’s special. He’s coming your way. Take care of him,” Huskisson said.
His mission touched their hearts.
The veterans spent time helping Ian map the next stage of his trip. They put him up at hotel.
He couldn’t buy a meal, says Huck.
“One of these days I’ll get up to Pittsburgh and meet his mother and father, and I will thank them personally for what he’s doing,” he says.
On Ian’s Facebook page, he logs photos and videos – recording a long list of kindnesses.
At one stop, Ian was invited to bring his message to patients and staff at Wellstone Psychiatric Hospital.
One woman wrote to him: “I know that you had a profound impact on those you encountered at Wellstone. I saw hope on the faces that otherwise might not have been there. Lives were changed. I know mine was.”
At the Dinner Bell Diner in Irvington, Ky., he told a waitress about his mission over breakfast. Ian says, complete strangers shared their stories.
Web Extra: Ian Walks America (Part 2)
With this walk, Ian hopes that talking openly about mental illness will be healing.
“It’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s nothing to feel, you know, you should have done more,” Ian says.
Then, there’s the matter of Ian’s left foot.
“I do have a blister going on here, but it seems to be okay,” he says.
Halfway through April, blisters on Ian’s left foot became seriously infected. He landed in a Lexington hospital with an IV antibiotics followed by two weeks of rest.
However, he can laugh about it now.
“Without feet, it would be like ‘Ian Crawls Across America’ or something,” he says.
As the sun rose on Ian’s 61st day he was back on Route 60 heading to Henderson.
“The landscape’s beautiful. The Ohio River back there, I could follow this north back to the ‘Burgh,” Ian says.
But not yet. Ian Cummins “has promises to keep and miles to go before he sleeps.”
“So far.” says Ian, “What I’ve seen is good. There’s so many good people out there. And often, we forget about that sometimes.”
Along the way, Ian is also encouraging that donations be made to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.