Chicago man makes his way through Tri-State on journey across US
by Aesia Toliver, Reporter (WFIE Evansville, IN) July 3, 2017
Frank Chiarelli slides in his insoles and hits the road for about 20 miles a day.
Chiarelli said he is heading in the right direction now, but it hadn't always been this way. His mother battled alcohol addiction, which he said affected his upbringing.
His life changed after moving in with his father, and he worked with his dad to put himself through school.
Now, he's sold all of his furniture, cashed out his 401K, and on May 1st headed out to fulfill his mission.
"I want to influence others across the country to get involved, I think it's a nationwide problem, young people being exposed to drugs and gang violence coming from broken households," said Chiarelli.
While on his journey, Chiarelli has met with mayors to discuss what avenues different cities are taking to keep youth off the streets.
Chiarelli is a third of the way through, with 2,200 miles left.
The money he raises on his "7 million strides campaign" is going towards career readiness and life mentorship programs for at-risk youth.
If you would like to donate, click the following link: 7 million strides campaign
Copyright 2017 WFIE. All rights reserved.
Miles on mission and message: Walking for at-risk children everywhere
Frank Chiarelli’s walk through Dubois County is a personal endeavor to raise awareness about a national issue that doesn’t necessarily pass through the fences of our perspectives.
But the Chicago native has lived on both sides of that fence; a fence that separates one child from ending up dead or in jail from the child that succeeds in life.
On Frank’s website, https://www.sevenmillionstrides.com, he gives a glimpse of the moments that led him to decide to walk the 3,100 miles — or 7 million strides — across the United States. He writes that his mother’s addictions led to instability in his home and touches on how it led to her eventual death.
What he doesn’t say is that as a single child with separated parents, he was the one finding his mother passed out, he was the one calling his aunt for help, and he was the one who eventually left to live with his father as she continued her destructive spiral. Then, when he was 12, his mother passed away.
For Frank, this was a turning point. He got involved with a local gang. He drove stolen cars and was a lookout during crimes. He was involved in robberies and dealing drugs. He was arrested.
His saving grace was the work ethic his family had instilled in him. His father, a successful business owner and no-nonsense man, wouldn’t put up with Frank’s criminal turn. So Frank committed to hard work, put himself through school and helped in his father’s business.
He also set back enough money to travel around the world. He headed to South America, Europe and hiked portions of the Pacific Trail. Straddled with a hard work ethic, a broken family and a shaky faith, he was searching for something.
“For a long time I had wanted to help kids,” Frank explained. “So I was looking to help kids in the refugee camps in Syria. I thought about teaching English in Bogota with a buddy of mine. But I didn’t really feel a connection to it.”
He wanted to help kids facing the same circumstances he had as a child.
“I came from a bad situation, not nearly as bad as a lot of the kids I am trying to help,” he explained. “I got help from my family. Without help from my father and my aunt, I don’t think I would have made it.”
The headlines in Chicago speak for themselves in regards to violence and youth. The city is approaching bankruptcy and people are leaving.
Returning to Chicago, Frank began to seek out organizations that were supporting the city’s youth. He found Kids Off the Block and connected with the group’s sincere efforts to help any kid that needs help.
Diane Latiker founded the organization in 2003, but the movement had its roots in her simple act of opening the doors to her home to children seeking a safe place in their neighborhood. What started as a couple of kids coming to her home to do homework, grew to youth activities and eventually the recognition by philanthropists that stepped in to help build the organization’s impact in Chicago.
While traveling in Bogota, Frank found the impoverished villages he was visiting had three elements holding them together: family, hard work and faith. Kids Off the Block is built on those three foundational elements of family, hard work and faith.
With plans to raise a family and live in his hometown for the rest of his life, Frank was determined to do something to help change things for the better. He also wanted to show the country the good things that are happening in Chicago as well as point out that the problems they have there are found to some degree everywhere.
He decided to walk across the country to raise money, talk about the problems with youth that are occurring everywhere and maybe inspire people to do something in their communities.
He garnered some support for the idea, sold all of his furniture, cashed out his 401k and headed to Delaware to begin his mission.
It’s not been easy. First, he didn’t do a lot of research before heading out. With some mountaineering experience and a relatively healthy lifestyle, he figured he would learn as he went.
“There is a beauty in ignorance,” he said. “If I had read something, I may not have followed through with what I am doing.”
Early on, some lessons were tough. He was carrying too much stuff. On a long country road with little shade crossing from Delaware into Maryland, Frank passed out from heat exhaustion.
He cut down on some weight and added a push cart to better distribute the load.
While camping in Warsaw, Kentucky, a deluge turned the ground around his tent into a pond. On a positive note, his video of the soaking experience upped his viewership on Instagram.
So far he’s averaged between 20 to 25 miles a day. The length depends on where the next city or town falls in line with his route. His route is mapped out on the website and follows the American Discovery Trail that runs across the country ending in Point Reyes, California.
He’s met a lot of good people, and parts of the mission have been successful so far. He’s had donations but the money is a just a drop in the bucket; the biggest changes need to start in the communities he passes through.
“I want to influence the most people I can to follow in my footsteps and get involved in helping in their community,” he explained. “It doesn’t have to be something like this, it can be something they do once a week to make a difference.”
And he’s been able to inspire a couple of people along the way. One guy said he was going to go back to church. Another decided to walk to raise money for a cause.
“One guy was so inspired by just my act of doing this thing that he decided to do something he’s always wanted to do, become a motivational speaker,” Frank said.
On Wednesday, Frank stopped in at Van’s Country Table in Marengo. After hearing his story, a group of 20 women gave him about $10 a piece.
Moments like those as well as the donations that come into the site from strangers are what keep him moving. But, some days, it’s hard to stay inspired. His feet hurt constantly. When he stands up after sitting for awhile, he hobbles a bit before the kinks are worked out.
Sometimes he finds inexpensive places to sleep and other times, he sleeps in a friendly yard or in a park. Sometimes it rains and sometimes it’s really hot.
But his plan is to make it through one way or another. To talk with anyone who will listen as well as the political leaders who will give him the time to discuss the merits of building our youth up with a strong work ethic and the skills to succeed.
Frank will be in Huntingburg Thursday and is heading for Oakland City Friday with Whitney Houston playing in his earbuds. His mom really liked Whitney Houston.
Man Walks Across the Country, Stops in Madison, Tells us Why
by Jeremy Sage (WKM News Madison, Indiana)
Jeremy: I'm here with WKM News and I'm out here on Heritage Trail trying to see what people are doing this summer. You seem to be getting some exercise...
Frank: Yes you can say that, I'm actually walking all the way across the country.
Jeremy: Wow, I didn't expect that answer (laughing). So are you talking about the continental United States? What do you mean?
Frank: I'm walking from the state of Delaware to California, just north of San Francisco. I'm from Chicago promoting a fundraising and awareness campaign for at-risk youth.
Jeremy: Wow that sounds pretty awesome... and your not Forrest Gump right?
Frank: So sir, I'm just walking, although Forrest is an idol of mine.
Jeremy: Well I may not be a smart man, but I'd still like to know more about your cause.
Frank: I was born and raised in Chicago, I love my city, and it really pains me to see so many people leaving so often. I wanted to try and do something about it.
Jeremy: People leaving a community they love? Youth having trouble? Even in a small community like this in Madison we face very similar issues.
Frank: Yes and I've been finding that same response from most everyone I've run into. A lot of people ask me; Frank how are you going to move the needle on such a large epidemic. I tell them, you know, I cant save the world, I can only focus on what I know and where I think I can have an impact. So I'm putting the money toward career readiness programs for kids ages 7-24.
As a child I struggled and I think everyone has. I was given an opportunity to be successful, and it is my goal to share that same opportunity with others.
I'm being sponsored by an organization called Kids Off the Block out of Chicago, IL; and my campaign is 7 Million Strides, essentially how many steps or strides it will take me to complete my journey.
Jeremy: So which stride do you think you were at when I just stopped you?
Frank: I'm about 850mi in right now
Jeremy: I imagine your in shape enough to do this?
Frank: Uh, actually before the walk a buddy of mine said, "Frank you better start training and stop eating White Castle because its gonna be a long walk." I told him that I'd whip myself into shape once I get out there, man that was the wrong decision!
Jeremy: Not many people can take this kind of time off for such a great cause, were there any sacrifices you had to make?
Frank: Yes absolutely, I cashed out my 401K plan, I sold all of my furniture to do this. I didn't really feel genuine taking other peoples money to walk across the country, I wanted to put it to a good cause.
Sleeping? (laughing) That is really off the cuff. I make that decision when I reach my destination. I've slept in a boat storage yard, at a Hindu Temple in the Appalachians, and a few homeless shelters.
Some of the more humbling experiences I have had, has been running into so many people who have not just supported the cause but supported the effort to make a change in a community.
Jeremy: On this trek you were just in Vevay, IN, now you're in Madison, IN, where are you off to next?
Frank: Well somewhere between here and Louisville, I cant exactly make about 47mi overnight, I have not actually decided yet.
Jeremy: Maybe Clarksville, IN?
Frank: Actually I'm just going to shoot for Wichita, KS that is where the very first White Castle was born.
Jeremy: Well I think if you walk from the east coast to Kansas you might deserve at least one small burger. And speaking of opportunities, I am going to give you the opportunity to continue on your long trek. What time do you think you'll get to the west coast?
Frank: To be honest I have no idea sir.
Jeremy: Well we hope that you make it there in one piece. And we thank you for talking with us. Be on your way.
Frank: Absolutely, take care (walking away)
Jeremy: Well there wasn't much more I could ask for as far as stopping someone to ask what they're doing this summer! I think he is going to make it. (yelling) Watch out for that golf cart! Well that was Frank. And his website is www.sevenmillionstrides.com if you want to follow him along. That begs the question, what are you doing this summer? Hope it's as cool. This has been Jeremy Sage on WKMNews.com the voice of "Kentuckyiana."
Just Passing Through
by: Jackie Graves (Bay Weekly Times; Annapolis, MD)
Getting the feel of his first pair of shoes five days into a walk across America to raise money and awareness for at-risk youth, Frank Chiarelli passed through Annapolis on May 6.
“It feels like I’ve been doing this for months. That’s how my body feels,” he said of his walk to the Pacific Ocean begun May 1 in the Cape May/Lewes area.
“I have an app,” he says, “that calculates how many steps I’ll walk in each pair of shoes.”
Chiarelli’s walk will take him 3,100 miles in 250 days, for some 15 miles a day or seven million strides.
So far he has passed out from heat stroke, filtered water on the side of the highway, slept in a barn and been taken in by “a couple of good guys,” who look out for “thru-hikers” and offer them food and a place to stay. He met his “Trail Angels” in Greenwood, Delaware, where they drank traditional Guatemalan pour-over coffee and watched Forensic Files.
The walk is sponsored by Kids Off the Block, a do-good organization on that invests in career-readiness programs for young people.
Track his progress and donate on his website www.sevenmillionstrides.com plus Instagram and Facebook.