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Walking for children, walking for his future
Cameron Coupe has an easy smile, one that flashes often during a short jaunt through 50 yards of trail at South Whidbey Community Park.
Almost every time the South Whidbey High School alumnus of 2013 talked about his five-month, cross-country fundraiser walk, about being prepared with enough water and unprepared for the route, he smiles.
His plan to walk from Seattle to New York City with his Washington State University roommate Alexander “Zan” Roman came about as easily as one of his grins. They were sitting in their dorm room, Coupe mentioned it as a summer plan, and then that was that. They hit the road and headed east in early June.
Having never traveled east past Idaho except for a family trip to Florida, Coupe, a South Whidbey High School graduate, began his trek as a way to see the United States and meet its people. After some strong encouraging from his mom, Nancy Thelen, they added fundraising options for Seattle Children’s Hospital and Seattle Autism Center to their blog http://walkamerica2014.wordpress.com
While Coupe and Roman have a strong attachment to their causes — both have family members who died from cancer and Roman’s sibling has autism — it’s also a journey for young men to learn who they are and discover what they want.
“I’m never going to have time to do this again,” said Coupe, who will turn 19 later this year. “I don’t have a house payment, a car payment, wife, kids.”
Coupe, who just finished his first year at Washington State, learned he preferred seawater and trees to rolling hills and farmland. So after he returns from the walkabout, he’ll move back west and transfer to Western Washington University or the University of Washington, somewhere closer to the things he took for granted as a young man growing up on South Whidbey.
“I missed the trees and the water,” he said. “You notice those things when you leave.”
A lot of planning went into the trip — it didn’t just come from the actual walkers. Instead, it came from Coupe’s mom, an expert organizer who used to help run the South Whidbey High School athletic booster club. She got stores to donate gear, such as their boots and tent, and Coupe said she was a regular reminder to plan and pack his three-wheel cart (it looks like the type bicyclists put their infants and toddlers in) ahead of his start date in early May.
Whatever planning went into the 2,853-mile journey — the shortest driving distance provided by Google Maps — financial and physical preparation were excluded. Coupe had “no idea” what the trip may cost and said he’d rely on youth to carry his legs over mountain passes across the long miles.
“My tactic, it’s not really a tactic, is I’m not doing any training walks,” he said. “I’m coming up on 19 [years old].”
“That way when I’m 20 miles away and I’m like, ‘Holy crap,’ I’ll already be in it,” he added.
As of this story’s publishing date, they are farther than 20 miles from Seattle. Their last blog entry was posted May 23, when they were in the Leavenworth area after a thrilling longboard ride down Highway 2 from Stevens Pass. However, Coupe’s mom said she recently got a call that they were in Idaho.
Further adding to the young men’s open-ended, no itinerary trip: only one planned stop. Their journey will take them in the area of iconic places — national parks, national monuments, historic sites — and there’s only one place they know they will see: Times Square.
“I’ll have some calves after this,” Coupe said, smiling.