On March 1st, 2018 two friends, Matt Andersen & Trevor Stephens, began their journey, a “Walk Across America,” that would take a little over 6 months and raise awareness and money for a charity of their choosing. We only learned about what they were doing and that they would be walking for the Purple Heart Foundation in May, 2018; 3 months after they started walking. We reached out and had the pleasure of speaking with Matt and Trevor. We wanted to gain insight as to why they chose the Purple Heart Foundation, to thank them for their support and to ask how their experience walking across the country had been.
According to Matt and Trevor, they “always had a plan to do a road trip after Matt graduated from college (Iowa State University) and [Trevor] “EAS’d” (End of Active Service) out of the Marines”. As they began seriously considering their cross-country road trip, Trevor brought up the idea of walking across the country rather than driving but “it didn’t become official that [they] were going to do it until around July of 2017. That’s when [they] started to do a lot of research.” Their research revolved around not only how to best complete the journey at hand, but also understanding why other people had decided to attempt it in the first place. They found that other people were doing it for various charities and so Matt and Trevor decided that they should too. They explained, “we wanted to see the country and meet its people while also raising money and awareness of a good cause”.
The research continued, now to find a worthy cause that both Matt and Trevor could agree upon. After researching dozens of charities and talking to many people, Trevor’s Staff Sergeant recommended the Purple Heart Service Foundation. “After looking into it [they] decided it was something [they] both could proudly support.” They both had many family members and friends in the military so a charity that raises money for and provides services to veterans was a worthy cause to them. For Trevor it hit a little closer to home though, being in the Marine Corps for four years as an infantry mortarman with the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines and the recommendation having come from his own Staff Sergeant. It was finally decided that on March 1st, 2018 Matt and Trevor would start their Walk Across America to raise awareness about the struggles veterans face, along with the goal of raising $5,000 to be donated to the Purple Heart Foundation.
By the end of their journey, Matt and Trevor will have walked for 192 days through Delaware, Maryland, DC, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and California. Generally, their days consist of walking an average distance of 25 miles per day and in their down time, getting to know the people of the towns they visited and explaining their mission to everyone they meet. Matt told us “The most fun thing for me was meeting the people and seeing the country”, and Trevor agreed, saying “I think the most fun thing for me has been seeing parts of the country I’ve never seen before. Colorado was probably the most beautiful place for me, the mountains were amazing, and we met a lot of really great people there.” Matt & Trevor were humbled by the generosity of the people they met along their journey; people of such diverse backgrounds, all willing to help by offering food, water, shelter and even money in some cases. Reflecting on the people they had met, Trevor told us “I’ve learned that the American people are truly kind and will go out of their way to help a stranger”, “they are very generous” Matt added.
In between all the fun of walking and getting to meet new people and places, Matt and Trevor were faced with obstacles. When you’re walking across the country doing about 25 miles a day, the most obvious obstacle they faced was their feet. Every couple of days Matt and Trevor would have to take what they called a “Zero Day” where they paused their journey and rested their feet in preparation for the coming days, making their total distance walked “zero” that day. Sometimes their zero days were even planned so they could attend local events or visit family and friends. They found the weather to be an obstacle as well. They hiked through the snow in March, encountered nor’easter storms in the spring and experienced the scorching sun in the hills of Colorado during the middle of summer.
Another obstacle they faced involved potential jobs. “Matt recently graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in chemical engineering and turned down a few career opportunities to take part in this 6 – 7-month journey. Trevor was planning to start school in August to become a history teacher, but since the trip is taking a little longer than expected [he] won’t start until the spring.” But through all these obstacles they have persevered and are close to the finish line of their journey. We asked Matt and Trevor what they learned from their sacrifices, obstacles and achievements they’ve experienced on this journey and this is what they had to say…
Matt: “I learned that I’m mentally tougher than I ever thought.”
Trevor: “I’ve gained the determination to accomplish any goal I set my mind to. After dealing with the adversity we have on this trip, it really makes you understand that if you want it bad enough, you can accomplish anything.”
When setting out to accomplish something like this you want to plan it out correctly to make sure your goal is achievable. “The success of this fundraiser is measured in multiple ways. In no particular order, it would be measured by [their] completion of walking all the way across the country, reaching [their] goal of raising $5,000 for the charity, and just getting the word out there about the charity and what it does to help veterans.” Based on Matt and Trevor’s daily documentation of their journey on their Facebook page, Matt & Trevor Walk Across America, you can follow them as they near the end of their journey. They’ve been interviewed by local radio stations and journalists in the towns they’ve stopped in, spreading the word about the Purple Heart Foundation’s mission farther than they could have imagined (you can also find links to their news reports below).
Through their GoFundMe page, they have already reached their goal of raising $5,000 and are aiming to exceed that by the time they reach the end of their walk. So, we would say they’ve been very successful thus far and we’re excited to see them at the finish line.
We invite YOU to join us on Marshall Beach in San Francisco, California between 11am – 12pm on September 8th, 2018 to congratulate these dedicated young men for accomplishing their goals! Matt and Trevor will be taking the last steps of their walk across the country at what they’re calling the “End of the Road Party”! Purple Heart recipients and Purple Heart Foundation members will be meeting Matt & Trevor to thank them for their efforts and support, and we hope you will come too! Our organization is so impressed with this dynamic duo for all that they have done for the Purple Heart Foundation.
Thank You Matt & Trevor! – from your friends at the Purple Heart Foundation