Alums take a walk—from New York to California
ames Dill, ’18, and Sam Rezaei, ’18 on the trail

James Dill (left) and Sam Rezaei (right) Walking through New Mexico

Alums take a walk—from New York to California

At 9:30 p.m., June 17, alums James Dill, ’18, and Sam Rezaei, ’18 left Coney Island Beach, New York on foot to make their way across the United States. Their Instagram account, @theamericantrail, chronicles their journey in short-form writing and travelog photography. Today, they are over 2,100 miles into their 2,800 mile trek to Los Angeles, and making their way through Arizona. They hope to reach Los Angeles on December 1 by walking around 25 miles per day, give or take. 

Both James and Sam share on their blog, The Walk Across the United States, that they embarked on this voyage because they wanted to challenge themselves beyond their known limits and experiences. “Walking across America seems like the ultimate challenge,” James writes, “experiencing life far outside my comfort zone, meeting all kinds of people along the way, and learning more about my country.” Sam writes that “I will be able to escape my urban upbringing and fully immerse myself in rural America.” 

Sleeping in the wilderness

Spending the evening alongside the road in New Mexico

Tenting alongside a church

Tenting behind a Presbyterian Church in Pennsylvania, and a new friend—a goat lovingly named Chop.

Most nights the Lab alums pitch their tents along the side of the road. Some nights they pitch their tents around a church or community center, citing the perception of safety in such locations as the locals often engage them in conversation, invite them to services, feed them, and offer them warm meals  and hot showers. “People are super kind,” Sam says. “In Brazil, Indiana, they took us out for lunch, offered us showers.” And their new friend, Robert Elkins, took them out for lunch and still keeps in touch. “I gained a huge appreciation for folks at the church, having not grown up religious.” 

Somewhere along the way, though, their purpose for walking expanded. No longer was it just about exceeding personal limits, or challenging themselves outside of comfort zones. After meeting several people who were homeless and after being mistaken for being homeless themselves, James and Sam decided they wanted to do something to help those facing homelessness and poverty.

Encountering Snow in the higher elevations

Encountering snow in the higher elevations.

“We were inspired to attach this cause to our walk after talking to several formerly homeless individuals and hearing about their struggles,” they write on their Coast2Coast Gofundme.com page. “We have also been touched by compassion shown to us by people who have mistaken us as homeless,” James says. “However, we are aware that many homeless people, especially those in urban areas, are often not treated with this same level of compassion. This further motivates us to support the work that The Night Ministry is doing.” 

As of this writing, James and Sam have raised over ten thousand dollars of their one million dollar goal for The Night Ministry, a Chicago-based organization that provides housing, health care, and a variety of social services to people who are unhoused or struggling with poverty. “We chose Night Ministry because it serves our hometown community of Chicago and was highly recommended by several trusted workers in the field.” 

The entire Lab community is excited to follow Sam and James the rest of their journey. We invite you all to do the same by following their blog and consider supporting their Coast2Coast fundraiser

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