On Saturday Chuck La Rue will finish his 3,200-mile walk across the United States at the Santa Monica Pier.
La Rue started the trek on May 13, 2010 from Washington, D.C., with the intention of creating awareness for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease – the illness his 48-year-old brother Dave had been diagnosed with a few years earlier. The disease took Dave’s movement, his voice and, finally, his life on Oct. 8, 2010. La Rue was able to be by his brother’s side in his final moments.
La Rue’s goal has been to raise awareness with everyone he encountered, many of whom have joined his Facebook group (Chuck Walking) to follow his progress and share their stories. He has raised more than $6,000 in donations to the ALS Association Rocky Mountain Chapter from family, friends and people he has met on his journey.
La Rue says he has had extraordinary experiences on his journey, including six weeks spent helping a couple on their farm. They offered him room and board for the difficult part of the winter so that he wouldn’t have to walk through the mountains in the cold and snow.
A man he met on his walk drove four hours to get La Rue and take him to the airport so that he could be with his brother in his last days.
He met a cousin he didn’t know at a rest stop in New Mexico. They started a conversation because he wore a sign that said “Walking for ALS” and she had just finished writing a story about physicist Stephen Hawking. They started chatting and soon discovered that they were both from Minnesota, which led to the discovery that La Rue’s great-grandmother was her grandmother’s sister.
He has encountered heat, wind, snow, rain, pesky dogs and has been attacked by a wild turkey. He walked through the desert without a place to stop for water.
In conversations, he has found out that many people knew someone or had a family member who had died of ALS. In Nebraska, La Rue got sick and the doctor who treated him had a sister with ALS, so he spent some time visiting with her.
In another town, a sheriff’s step-daughter lost her father to ALS. The sheriff brought her to the park where La Rue was camping, so that they could talk.
La Rue says that many people had never heard of ALS, and believes that more information and education need to be given to the public to know about the illness and how it affects not only the individual who is ill, but everyone around the person.
Each night, if he had cell phone coverage, La Rue would call his brother and family to let them know where he was and to tell them about the day’s adventure.
La Rue is now staying in Culver City with his sister, Julie. He will begin the final leg of his walk at 10 a.m. on June 12, near the lawn bowling area at Douglas Park in Santa Monica.
La Rue’s fundraising page is at firstgiving.com/charleslarue.
The ALS Association is a nonprofit organization funded solely by donations and dedicated to finding the cause and cure of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. ALS is a devastating and always fatal neuromuscular disease. Unless a cure is found, more than 300,000 Americans living today will die from ALS. To learn more about ALS, visit alsaco.org.