One day in March, Drew Blondeaux heard the story of Liz Estes.
Blondeaux, a Navy veteran from Arizona who served two tours in Afghanistan as a corpsman, made a quick decision: He would walk across America to help a woman he had never met, a woman who already had survived leukemia at the age of 13, a woman who recently had been diagnosed with advanced-stage multiple sclerosis while pregnant with her second child.
Five days later, Blondeaux, 23, started walking eastward from the Oceanside, Calif., area.
His travels brought him to Northeast Ohio on Wednesday, as he walked from a motel along state Route 18 at Interstate 71 through Medina County, across western Summit County and into Akron. He wore a T-shirt that read “Walkforliz.com” and pushed a cart carrying his gear.
Blondeaux’s route eventually will take him 3,600 miles and is set to conclude at the Statue of Liberty in New York City on July 20.
“I thought I might as well help someone that needs it more than me,” Blondeaux said Wednesday during a rest break in Bath Township. He hoped to make it well into Portage County by nightfall.
Blondeaux spent some of his first nights in a $500 tent — until a badger destroyed it in Utah. Since then, he has stayed in motels, putting the charges on a credit card, or he has been offered lodging from strangers.
He has raised more than $2,600 for Estes. Another benefactor who heard about his walk donated an electric wheelchair to her.
“It is amazing that someone would take the time to do something like this,” said Estes, 21, who is 8 months pregnant. She, her husband and their 20-month-old daughter live in Klamath Falls, Ore. “There should be more people like him.”
After high school, Blondeaux traveled in Asia and helped at an orphanage in Cambodia, where children who had been injured in Burma were being treated. He joined the Navy and became a combat medic — a corpsman — who served with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines.
And along with helping Estes, Blondeaux said he also hopes his cross-country trek will promote other random acts of kindness.
“I believe in helping others out if you can,” he said.
After his trip is finished, Blondeaux hopes to attend college and is considering Columbia University in New York City.
“You can’t just hope for change or expect change to happen or talk about change,” he said. “You have to go out and live the change you want.”
His called his walk “a grand gesture, effort-wise, to catch people’s eyes … to raise awareness for random acts of kindness.”
For more on Blondeaux’s walk, go to www.walkforliz.com or go to his Facebook page, Walk For Liz.
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or firstname.lastname@example.org.