FLORIDA HIGHWAY 77, SOUTH OF BONIFAY—Three Troy University fraternity brothers have found an outpouring of support from people along a 125-mile stretch of highway between Troy, Ala. and Panama City, Fla.
Alpha Tau Omega brothers Kyle Crabtree, a junior broadcast journalism student from Dadeville; Austin Bivins, a junior psychology major from Clanton; and Jacob Laan, a senior criminal justice major and Alabama Army National Guard member from Fort Payne, are trekking to raise money for diabetes educational Camp Seale Harris.
Dubbed “Walk Hard 2010,” the donations they receive will help send children with diabetes and their families to camp to learn how to cope with the disease.
“It’s really opened our eyes to see how supportive people are of what we’re doing,” Bivins said. “We really didn’t anticipate getting any support but the people are really great.”
Bivins said about 15 people a day stop to encourage, bring water or snacks and, in some cases, make donations.
“Their support really does mean a lot to us and it reminds us that we’re doing this for a purpose,” he said, adding that the encouragement often translates into motivation for the team, which lost one hiker due to scheduling conflicts at the start.
The trek, however, hasn’t been without some adversity – including a few logistical oversights.
“We have either overshot or undershot some of our planned campsites, and we trained by hiking with 40-pound backpacks but we didn’t anticipate the hills of Lower Alabama,” Bivins said.
On night two, the team arrived at a bridge over the Chotawhatchee River but discovered their planned campsite was really a gravel bar. To add insult to tired feet, they arrived in a thunderstorm.
“It was pouring down rain most of the night and there were bee and wasp nests over us. That was the worst night yet – we had to fight flooding, the rain and were constantly trying to keep our stuff dry,” Bivins said.
The trio will continue to Panama City, anticipating a late afternoon arrival at Pineapple Willy’s in Panama City and plan to camp near Vernon, Fla. tonight.