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The airstrip in the countryside of southwestern Halifax County offers rapid access for Duke Life Flight.
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SoVaNow.com / September 03, 2014Therese “Terez” Simoneau is making her way on journey that began July 6 in St. Peterburg, Florida and will end Sept. 24 in Canada at Niagara Falls, a total of 1,300 miles. Her long hike will take her through five major cities — Jacksonville, Fla., Savannah, Ga., Raleigh, N.C., Richmond and Washington D.C. — and many rural towns and scenic byways before she crosses the border into Canada.
On Aug. 22, Simoneau stopped for breakfast at the McDonald’s in Clarksville, on her way from Raleigh to Richmond.
Through her travels, Simoneau hopes to raise $13,000 for her school, the Impact Masters Commission, located at First Assembly of God Church in Fort Wayne, Ind. The goal of the Impact Masters Commission, according to their Facebook page, “is to provide an intensive discipleship program for those who desire to intimately know God and make Him known.” The school’s secondary goal is to provide hands-on ministry experience and training.
At the same time, Simoneau is on a personal journey — one where she hopes to prove to herself that she is capable of anything she puts her mind to do.
She is not shy about telling of the struggles she has overcome in her 22 years of living. “I grew up visiting three generations of men in my family in jail, my brother, my dad, and my grandfather. I was placed in dropout prevention programs by the fifth grade; I struggled mentally with the call of addiction I felt on my life. I was expected to fail, to drop out, and to end up in jail.
“At just 12, I had experienced drugs, alcohol, abuse, and death. But then something happened, I was offered something that changed my life, hope. I have clung to that same hope since I was 12. I graduated high school and moved on to college with one focus in mind, the 12 year olds that are out there that are just as I was, with no hope.”
She’s named this trip “one step closer,” and says of her mission, “I want to show the members of my generation that no matter where you came from, no matter how many odds are stacked against you, that every single person is capable of greatness and that it is worth fighting for. I want to show them that even when they feel like giving up they are ONE STEP CLOSER to a better future.”
Simoneau, who is about to begin the second year of a two-year discipleship program — she is studying prison ministry — said the logistics of the trip was the easy part. “I had a 13 week break from school. I planned to spend the first week at home [in St. Petersburg]. I’d always dreamed of walking across America. So I sat down and figured realistically how far can I walk in 12 weeks and plotted my route.
The harder part, for Simoneau, was the physical and emotional conditioning and preparation. She spent the past year learning about hydration, woodland survival, and nutrition, as she prepared her body for the walk through endurance and strength training. In April, during a break from school, Simoneau did a practice walk of 110 miles.
At first, she says, she was very quiet about her planned trek. As those at school and others saw her putting in the time and energy, they helped support her mission. During her training, Simoneau said one of the most frequently asked questions was, “Where will you sleep?” Addressing issues like sleeping arrangements was all part of her planning and training.
As much as possible Simoneau camps. In more urban areas, or if she feels it is unsafe, Simoneau finds other accommodations, such as a hotel room. She also carries with her food rations, but occasionally stops at a local fast food restaurant.
None of the money being raised will pay for her travel. In fact, Simoneau prefers not to accept contributions. Instead, she directs interested donors to a web site where they can make their contribution, supportterez.com.
“If I can walk across America, most anyone can. People can say you can’t all they want, but if you are willing to make the sacrifice, put in the blood, sweat and tears, you can do anything.”
Over the 12-week trek, Simoneau said she will average about 20 miles per day. She is very specific about the ending date and time of her walk, Sept. 24 at 1:30 p.m. on the Rainbow Bridge at Niagara Falls. “I have to be there then because I have people flying in from around the country to meet me,” Simoneau says.
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