Walking for a purpose

Stacie Eichinger of Tucson, Ariz., is on a nine-month walk across the U.S. to raise money for Beads of Courage. She traveled through Douglas County on May 30. (Provided photo)

| By Karen Larsen |

Commuters on Pine Canyon May 30 may have noticed a woman pushing a cart with a red umbrella and some ice chests. Those who saw her surely knew that there must be a story behind this woman, who was obviously prepared for the long haul.

This was Stacie Eichinger of Tucson, Ariz. She has embarked on a nine-month walk across the United States beginning in Ocean Shores and ending in Savannah, Ga. Eichinger is doing the walk to raise money for Beads of Courage, an arts-in-medicine group that helps children with serious illnesses to cope with the procedures and therapies involved and to celebrate the milestones on their road to recovery. “It gives them tangible evidence of what they’ve gone through and how they’ve survived and conquered whatever ailment they may have,” Eichinger said.

As she travels across the country, Eichinger will stop at 20 hospitals which take part in the Beads of Courage program, and she will present a special bead in the shape of a shoe to children in these hospitals. So far, she has only been to one hospital on the route, Seattle Children’s Hospital. When she got there to meet with the children and present them with beads, she met a 16-year-old boy who had already ran in several marathons, but had been diagnosed with cancer in one leg. Then he also accidentally broke the same leg. He was in a wheelchair and feeling down. When he saw Eichinger’s shirt, he came over to get a bead. “He was so excited. To see him light up made the first 150 miles of the trip completely worth it,” Eichinger said.

Eichinger spent the night of the May 30 at the guest house of Walt and Marilyn Gearhart in Douglas, and then left on her way the next morning. All along the trip, she is relying on the hospitality and generosity of the people in each town in which she stops. “It has been phenomenal so far,” Eichinger said. She is seeking people to sponsor her trip at $10 per mile. For each $10 donated, she will receive a Carry a Bead matching bead set. Her goal is to have each of the 3,800 miles of her trip sponsored, so that she can raise $38,000 for Beads of Courage, and present 3,800 beads to seriously ill children. Donations can be made at her website:  www.crowdrise.com/walkforbeadsofcourage.