Jack Fussell’s Facebook page says he is “just a regular guy trying to help, like I promised I would.”
But Fussell is anything but regular. The 64 year old Navy veteran is walking and running more than 3500 miles from the Atlantic to the Pacific coasts, all to raise funds and awareness for Alzheimer’s disease.
Fussell started his incredible cross-country journey on November 4, 2014 from Tybee Island in his home state of Georgia, and he will be finishing the trek in Monterey, California. Currently, Fussell is racing across Colorado. This ‘regular guy’ covers an impressive 20-25 miles each day, inspiring and educating those he meets along the way, and changing the lives of people affected by the disease one step at a time.
But his journey isn’t just about completing the physical challenge. Talking to as many people as possible about the disease is one of his most important goals. “Every 67 seconds, a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is made,” he said. “This disease is devastating…and not just for the people living with the disease, also for their caregivers.”
In 2000, Fussell lost his father to Alzheimer’s disease. His father came from a family of 12 siblings, seven of whom died of the disease. Faced with the loss of his father and a personal health scare, Fussell was inspired to reevaluate his life. He lost 100 pounds and made it his new mission to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s disease by trekking across the country.
His campaign, “Across the Land, raising awareness one step at a time” has been featured in hundreds of media outlets across the country and has enabled him to meet four governors as well as countless people affected by the disease. “I’ve spent about 55 nights in Alzheimer’s units talking to patients and caregivers. These special experiences are life changing and remind me that I need to keep going forward with our mission.”
Although his journey is physically and emotionally draining, Fussell is constantly inspired by the many brave people he meets that are either affected by the disease or working towards finding a cure. “I feel like the luckiest guy in the world to be able to do this.” But he stresses that so much work needs to be done in terms of legislation and funding. “It is shocking how little funding is provided for this disease – people can help by talking to their lawmakers and demanding change.”
Fussell said his trek doesn’t exactly have a set-in-stone plan. He usually just travels wherever there is an Alzheimer’s Association chapter. Fussell also wants to raise awareness of the network that is available to inform and support anyone touched by Alzheimer’s. “People can call 800-272-3900 to reach a 24-hour-a-day help line that has counselors for caregivers or anyone concerned about the illness,” he said.
-by Leslie Mitchell, Alzheimer’s Association Volunteer.