PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – It’s been three months since a young man from Dormont set off – from the shores of the Atlantic Ocean in Virginia – on a hike. A hike so long he gave it a name: Ian Walks America.
Ian Cummins is walking coast to coast to memorialize his brother and raise awareness of mental health issues. This past week he reached a milestone — the halfway point.
Not much happens in Sylvia, Kansas – population 218. But Ian was savoring his arrival in the tiny town that most people zoom through at 65 miles an hour. He’s midway to the Pacific Ocean.
“It’s pretty amazing, you know, starting in the Appalachians, in the cold,” he says.
Ian set off from Virginia Beach on March 1. It was only months after his younger brother, Ryan, had committed suicide after a long struggle with mental illness.
The walk became Ian’s way of dealing with the profound loss and letting others know that they don’t have to struggle alone. His walk is raising money for the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Digging into a bag of makeshift trail mix – a medley of chocolate and nuts – he declares it a “gross mess.”
One thing he’s learned about walking in the cold in March: It’s easier to keep your food fresh than it is in Kansas in June. Now, heat is a concern, as is making certain he’s packed sufficient resources.
Places to re-stock come along much less frequently out here.
For the homestretch, Ian will have some much appreciated company on his journey. He’s being joined by Nick Rodgers and Jake Lusardi – his brother, Ryan’s two best friends from back in Dormont.
“They’re grieving and coping with the loss of Ryan just as much as I, my family, and so many other people who knew him,” says Ian.
Together, the three hikers will tackle the Rocky Mountains and walk to San Francisco – only another 1,600 or so miles.
Ian says it’s wonderful to have their companionship, but he says all along he’s felt support from those in Pittsburgh – those who love him, those who worry about him and those who are cheering him on.
Says Ian, “No matter how many miles I put into this and no matter how much farther away I get, I still feel like everybody back home is walking with me every single day.”
You can follow Ian’s journey at IanWalksAmerica.com.
Donations through the website benefit the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Southwest Pennsylvania chapter.
Dormont Man To Walk Coast-To-Coast To Honor Brother, Raise Awareness About Suicide And Mental Health (3/3/14)
Local Man Walking Across America To Raise Mental Health Awareness (5/7/14)
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