This post is the kick off to my series on the amazing personal journey of Mike Mclaughlin, aka Standing Bear. Mike is embarking on the hike of a lifetime and is doing it to raise money for underprivileged children. I stumbled across Mike's blog last week and I didn't leave my chair until I read the entire thing from his first entry on March 3rd of this year.
I've had a fascination with the Appalachian Trail (AT) for some time and that's probably what initially grabbed my attention about his blog. For those of you who aren't familiar with the AT, its a marked hiking trail that is approximately 2184 miles in length. It spans from Georgia to Maine. The trail is managed by the National Parks Services and is maintained by 30 different trail clubs and partnerships. For more in depth information on the history of the AT, visit the Wikipedia site.
Look at this view......
Hikers of the AT adopt a trail name and Mike has chosen Standing Bear as his trail name.
Michael's history of child abuse and his triumph over it is a story of hope, perseverance and inspiration. He went on to finish high school and in 2005 he earned his Bachelor's Degree in History at Illinois State University, graduating Sunna Cum Laude. He then went on to receive his Masters in Accounting. Michael now attends Washington University on a Deloitte Foundation Doctoral Fellowship and is pursuing his PhD in Accounting.
His blog is named Hike4Kids and I've taken this excerpt from it.....
This March, Olin MBA student Michael McLaughlin is embarking on a 2,500-mile, six-month journey as he attempts to become the first person ever to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail and the Ozark Trail back-to-back. The purpose of Michael’s hike is to help underprivileged children who have been abused, discarded, or ignored.
Michael’s passion for service stems from a childhood of abuse that left him emotionally and physically scarred, as well as homeless. This inspired Michael to create the vision for Hike4Kids along with fellow MBA student Brooke James. Brooke also is no stranger to adversity, as she spent four years in Africa building schools for neglected blind children, and is in fact blind herself.
Together, Michael and Brooke developed Hike4Kids as a way to bring attention to the plight of underprivileged children, and to raise money for two worthy charities that are striving to help these children. These charities are: (1) a school for neglected blind children, in Cameroon, Africa and (2) the Family Resource Center, a St. Louis organization that helps abused children. Michael and Brooke have chosen a local charity as well as a charity in Africa to highlight the importance of providing relief both locally and abroad. While charity starts at home, it need not end there.
By partnering with Brooke and Michael, you too can make a difference in a child’s life. Right now, there is a child who is being abused, neglected, and cast aside. Will you stand up and be that child’s hero?
I contacted Mike when I read his story and asked if I could feature him on my blog. I thought everyone would be interested in reading about his hike and seeing some of the amazing photos he's taking along the way. Mike stops in at various towns along the trail and checks his email when he gets a chance. I'm going to be sending him questions from time to time about his journey and he's going to answer them for us if he can. If anyone has a question about the trail for Mike, let me know and I'll include it when I email him.
In the meantime, please join me in welcoming Mike to our little band of bloggers. Take the time to visit his blog and offer encouragement. He's been putting up some video's and they're really informative. If anyone is interested in donating to his cause, you can do so through his blog. I have no connection to Mike or his charity, other than to help spread the word about him. You can visit his blog, his FB page and you can also check out The Family Resource Center of St. Louis for more information.
MILES HIKED SO FAR: 963
(all photographs courtesy of Mike McLaughlin. Please don't re-print without permission)