Man walks through Garden City on cross-country fundraising journey [The Garden City Telegram, Kan.]By Kamil Zawadzki, The Garden City Telegram, Kan.McClatchy-Tribune Information Services
Aug. 18--Giving children a chance to grow up and fulfill their dreams is an important cause for Mario Landeros.
The Los Angeles native stopped in Garden City Friday night as he journeys on foot across the United States as part of Operation: Cheer to raise awareness and funds for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
Landeros spent five years working with children with serious illnesses, working on fundraisers with businesses in his community and decided to try another method.
"I thought, okay, if I'm on the road for six, seven, eight months, it would be a good way to raise money," he said.
He said he saved some money and asked friends and family to contribute before setting off for the East Coast and trying to gather as much money as he can along the way for cancer research. Seeing shows like "Celebrity Apprentice" where famous people raised a lot of money for various causes helped encourage him to try and venture out on his own.
"I'm not a celebrity... but I think I could raise as much money," he said. "I set my goal pretty high, actually, I set it at a million dollars, and I tell people, there's (about 314 million people in the U.S.). If everybody donated a dollar, I'd be well above my goal."
Though he admitted he's been off to a slow start, Landeros said he's already been able to benefit from the kindness of generous strangers along the way. In addition to small donations, people in towns he's passed through offered their help whenever the cart carrying food, water and other provisions verged on breakdown due to the strain of long-term travel through hot weather and harsh terrain.
Landeros already has some encouraging stories from southwest Kansas, as well.
"I was in Deerfield yesterday... a bunch of kids at the activity center just kind of wrote their names (on the flap of the cart)," he said.
And in Garden City, while eating a meal at McDonald's, some Finney County sheriff's deputies suggested he look into spending the night at Emmaus House.
Landeros said that in some towns, he's been able to find hosts through CouchSurfing.org, a hospitality social networking site, but when he can't secure a bed, he pitches a tent in public parks or RV parks.
He's also been maintaining a Facebook Page and a blog, where he posts photos and updates on his progress wherever he can secure an Internet connection. He said his blog has been getting hits from returning users not just from within the United States but from across the world, and visitors can donate money to either help him keep going through a link PayPal or to St. Jude through a link to FirstGiving.com.
Landeros plans to reach his destination in Maine by late fall, and plans on making contact at some point with another walker traveling from Delaware to San Francisco and comparing their experiences. Encountering cancer survivors, including former St. Jude patients, and their families, encourages him to press on.
"It's always good to know that what I'm doing here makes a difference."
(c)2012 The Garden City Telegram (Garden City, Kan.)
Visit The Garden City Telegram (Garden City, Kan.) at www.gctelegram.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services