Steps for Sunshine

. April 23, 2013.
jeffaltspeaker

In 1998, Jeff Alt set out for the journey of a lifetime — to complete the 2,160-mile Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. Raising money for Maumee’s Sunshine Children’s Home, where his younger brother, Aaron, lives, his adventure has inspired the annual Walk for Sunshine event, which celebrated its 12th year in September 2009 and has raised $180,000 to date.
Jeff tells the story of his amazing experience in both his book (now in its third edition) and film, A Walk for Sunshine, which screens at the Maumee Indoor Theatre on Saturday, May 1 at 7 p.m. and
9 p.m.
TAP sat down with Jeff to get the inside scoop on his momentous trek.
Why did you decide to hike the entire Appalachian Trail?
When I walked the trail, I walked as a fundraiser for Sunshine. That was the spirit that kept me going. While I was on the trail, 75 volunteers in Toledo walked in step with me playing off the momentum I had built. That was the inaugural walk for Sunshine. I called from a cell phone in the middle of nowhere and they held the phone up to a microphone. It was surreal because, physically, everyone was removed from me, but spiritually I could feel their momentum.
How did you make your brother Aaron at Sunshine a part of your journey?
I wanted to share my dream and journey with him as much as I could. I gave him a trail map and his caregivers tacked that to the wall. At each town I would hike into, I would mail Aaron a postcard and his caregivers would read that to him as I moved along.
How do you involve your kids
in your hiking experiences?

We’re doing a lot of family adventures. After the kids (Madison, 5, and William, 3) are a little more independent we’ll do some more. We’re training as a family.
We let William and Madison lead and when they fatigue we stop and take a break. Madison is all “girl”, but with that said, that girl will jump in the creek and run through the mud. I think it’s because we introduced her to the outdoors at such an early age. We, as parents, need to nurture those outdoor experiences. I met a family out there (on the trail) homeschooling their child. Writing in the journal of each shelter was his homework assignment. It was kind of cool.
Any advice for people considering hiking?
Dabble with it first. Keep it fun. Take a stroll in the local park. Talk with someone who’s done it or go on a weekend outing with an experienced camper and glean every bit of advice from them. Before acquiring all the gear, maybe borrow it. But don’t think you have to spend an arm and a leg on gear — you don’t have to buy the name brand.
What do you hope people will take away from the film?
Going after your dream now is the big lesson. The film is intended to inspire you to get out there. Go after that challenge or dream.
Adults and teens tickets to the Walk for Sunshine screening on Saturday, May 1 are $10, children under 12, $5. Advanced tickets are available at the Maumee Indoor Theatre, 419-897-8902, and at Georgette’s Grounds and Gifts (311 Conant St., Maumee). For more info, visit www.jeffalt.com.