SHERIDAN — On Wednesday evening, Stacie Eichinger walked into Sheridan, 1,300 miles into her 3,800-mile journey across the country.
Eichinger set out on foot from Ocean Shores, Wash., on May 8 in an attempt to walk to Savannah, Ga., in order to raise money for Beads of Courage, a nonprofit organization that provides arts programs to children with serious illnesses in 150 hospitals to help them cope with their situation.
“It is a Tucson-based program and I am from Tucson,” Eichinger said. “I know the founder pretty well and have been volunteering for her about five years. When I decided I wanted to do this walk about three years ago, I approached her about walking for Beads of Courage and she loved it. So here I am.”
Eichinger travels with a decorated wheeled cart that carries camping gear, a camp stove, coolers with food and drinks and other essentials. It weighs approximately 100 pounds when full.
When necessary, Eichinger camps at night near a road but says she has been fortunate so far in arranging overnight stays in homes in most of the towns she travels through. By word of mouth and networking among friends and family, she has arranged overnight stays for the Sheridan to Rapid City, S.D., stretch.
She carries a GPS watch to track her mileage and says she averages 20 to 25 miles a day, but has walked as far as 33 miles in one day.
“I really don’t get lonely,” she said. “Because I stay with families every night or almost every night, I walk from basically seven to four or eight to five. I get picked up, taken home, we eat dinner and talk and all of a sudden it is eight at night and I have to blog and go to bed! There is no real time to get lonely.”
Eichinger said she has received support from many people and has been surprised by the friendliness and helpfulness of people along the way. During a phone interview with The Sheridan Press when she was near Deer Lodge, Mont., Eichinger was approached by a woman in a car who asked if she needed help. After explaining her mission, the woman said she owned a bar a few miles up the road and told Eichinger to stop in and say that she had sent her.
Eichinger is stopping at hospitals along her route that participate in the Beads of Courage program. She is hoping to get sponsors to provide her $10 per mile for her fundraising. She currently has $9,000 raised. She estimates it will take her nine months to complete the trip to Savannah. You can follow her progress on her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/walk4courage.