From Coast to Coast: Barefoot

Posted by Rachel Yuen in Events, Organizations Edit

Traveling a distance of nearly 3,500 miles is manageable by air plane, time-consuming by car, and practically unthinkable by foot. However, 19-year-old Dashiel Alsup opted to complete a journey of that enormity on his bare feet. Alsup trekked shoeless from Washington to Florida, not on a whim or out of curiosity, but to demonstrate that millions of people around the world walk barefoot everyday because they do not own a pair of shoes. Backed by the organization Soles4Souls, Alsup raised eyebrows, awareness and support during his seven months of travelling.

Soles4Souls is an organization dedicated providing the simple gift of shoes to people in need across the world. It was founded by Wayne Elsey, who had been in the shoe industry since he was 15 years old, and worked his way up the ranks in a major footwear company. Elsey sold his company and established the nonprofit Soles4Souls after his involvement with the aid efforts for the 2004 tsunami that hit Southeast Asia and hurricanes Rita and Katrina.

Based in Nashville, Tenn., Soles4Souls has donated more than a million pairs of shoes in more than 60 countries worldwide. Alsup came across the Web site for Soles4Souls one day in his high school computer lab during a desktop publishing class. He was already contemplating a cross-country walk and talking with people from Souls4Soles gave him the inspiration to go ahead with it.

“I left high school to start this trip,” says Alsup. He was a credit and a half away from graduating at the time. Although he was told many times that it was a bad decision that would haunt him, he forged ahead. “I was told if I wanted to do anything with my life I needed the diploma. But there are always exceptions. I like to think that I'm an exception,” says Alsup.

Soles4Souls agreed to sponsor Alsup’s barefoot walk across the country. Alsup’s 3,340 mile trek began on May 2 in Ocean Shores, Wash. On December 9, he reached the Atlantic Ocean, where he was able to dip his feet in the waters of Neptune Beach.

Alsup, a Coaldale, Colo. native, soon discovered that a cross-country walk is no walk in the park. Within the first two days of walking, he developed blisters over nearly the entire bottom of each foot. The loneliness also proved overwhelming. “Colorado, and my friends and family, seemed an impossibly long way, much less Florida,” he says. However, the generosity and kindness of the people Alsup encountered empowered and enabled him to complete the journey. “I found warm homes and friends wherever I was. Strangers who took me into their homes and fed me and let me sleep on the couch,” says Alsup. “People are good. We have to get beyond the evening news reports and start to understand that.”

Through a range of weather conditions, Alsup managed to log 25 to 30 miles each day.
“We were astonished as he consistently marched onward, mile after mile. … We walked barefoot with him as he came through Nashville, and again as he stepped into the Atlantic Ocean just outside Jacksonville,” says Christian Carmichael, communications director of Soles4Souls.

Alsup found that the good and bad experiences balanced out on the road; the worst times were often followed by the best. He described the 44 oz. Big Gulp of Mountain Dew he drank once he made it to Vernal, UT as the best drink of his life. “That was the drink that I had to work the hardest to get. You don't take anything for granted when you've just walked sixty miles to get it,” says Alsup.

“His amazing dedication and perseverance has resulted in Soles4Souls’ gaining thousands of new donors as they learn about his chosen charity and our programs to help the needy in the United States and around the world,” says Carmichael.

To encourage people to donate gently-worn shoes, Soles4Souls will sponsor the second annual “Barefoot Week” in June, 2009. The charity will visit five US cities to distribute 325,000 pairs of new shoes to local nonprofits including homeless shelters, missions and children’s services. To find out more or get involved, visit www.soles4souls.org.

To learn more about Dashiel Alup’s journey, visit his blog at:

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