Husband takes long, meaningful walk along National Road to defeat cancer


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It is a journey that Dave Brown would rather be taking with his wife, Joan, but instead, he is taking it in her honor.

Mr. Brown is walking across the United States to raise money and awareness for ovarian cancer, the disease that took his wife's life in August 2011. Mrs. Brown was 58.

"Ovarian cancer is a nasty, nasty disease," Mr. Brown said. "I spent a lot of time researching to choose the organization that I thought would do the most good towards fighting it."

In his Walk Across America for Ovarian Cancer, Mr. Brown is hoping to raise $110,000 for the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund.

Mr. Brown comes to Pennsylvania this week, where he will walk along U.S. Route 40 -- the National Road. It is the road he is following for much of his journey and one chosen for its sentimental value.

"Joan had given me a book that a couple had written in 1983 about their travels along U.S. 40 and they took the same photos as a guy who had written a book in 1953. I plan to take the same photos in my journey," he said.

Those books, "Coast to Coast" by George R. Stewart and "U.S. 40 Today" by Thomas and Geraldine Vale, are both in Mr. Brown's car. Yes, his car. Mr. Brown actually drives his route each morning, then has someone ferry him back to the starting point and he walks to his car. That way, he can carry supplies and clothes and be, as he said, "in complete control."

Mr. Brown was inspired to walk by watching "My Run," a documentary about Terry Hitchcock, a single father who ran the equivalent of 75 marathons in 75 consecutive days.

"He did it to raise awareness about single parenting. It was so inspirational and this guy wasn't even in shape before he started out," Mr. Brown said.

Fortunately, Mr. Brown, 61, of Collegeville -- a small town in Montgomery County some 30 miles from Philadelphia -- is in shape. A jogger for more than 30 years, he also trained for over seven months for his walk.

He and Joan enjoyed traveling and walking. They also participated in volkswalks, organized walks in various cities through the American Volkswalks Association, an organization fashioned after volkswalks popular in Germany.

Mr. Brown started his journey in Atlantic City on Feb. 28. He hopes to complete the walk on Oct. 12 in San Francisco. In that city, he will retrace the path that he and Joan had taken during a volkswalk a few years ago.

As he travels across the country, Mr. Brown will be sporting a fluorescent green hoodie sweatshirt that his local walking club, the Liberty Bells, has provided him. "I'm a little hard to miss," he said.

He travels light, carrying a few snacks and water and doesn't listen to any music, preferring to just enjoy the sights and sounds around him. Since he is on a main road and checks in with police in the area, he isn't worried about his safety. He does carry pepper spray.

Mr. Brown hopes other walkers will join him and others will host him in their homes overnight.

"I welcome people to join me and I will post them as honorary walkers if they walk a whole day with me," he said. A "whole day" is approximately 14 miles, Mr. Brown said.

Donna Holdorf, executive director of National Road Heritage Corridor, said the National Road is an appropriate choice for Mr. Brown's mission.

"We say that The National Road is America's Road to Revolutions -- the French and Indian War, the cultural and industrial revolution -- he is trying to create another revolution, to help find a cure to this awful disease."

Ms. Holdorf is one helping Mr. Brown find lodging through the Pennsylvania section of his trip. He will enter Pennsylvania at western Washington County near West Alexander and travel through Fayette County's Brownsville and Uniontown, then on to Somerset County and exit at the Maryland line in Garret County.

"He is taking his own personal loss and turning it into something positive. We are happy to help with Dave Brown's revolution," she said.

Mr. Brown is blogging about his experience at www.ocjoan.blogspot.com and he's on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ocjoanx. He also welcomes those interested in walking with him to email Ocmdbreeze@aol.com or call 610-906-6252.

neigh_east - neigh_south

Kathleen Ganster, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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