December 19, 2014

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Duo walking across America to benefit children’s fitness program

Sammy Colon and Anthony Campbell, both of Philadelphia, began walking across the United States earlier this year. The pair walked through areas of Northeast Ohio, including Lorain County on Thursday. KRISTIN BAUER / CHRONICLE

Sammy Colon and Anthony Campbell, both of Philadelphia, began walking across the United States earlier this year. The pair walked through areas of Northeast Ohio, including Lorain County on Thursday. KRISTIN BAUER / CHRONICLE

AVON — Walking across the United States takes motivation and endurance fueled by a purpose.

Sammy Colon, 28, and Anthony Campbell, 27, were moving at a fast pace near the Avon and Sheffield border Thursday afternoon after walking more than 450 miles from Camden, N.J.

The two men are on a cross-country journey to raise money for Steve’s Club, a national program that encourages kids to get involved with fitness and the CrossFit community instead of choosing drugs, gangs or violence.

CrossFit workouts incorporate exercises from multiple disciplines and are practiced by thousands of people in more than 5,500 affiliated gyms across the country, according to crossfit.com.

Colon, a Philadelphia bartender sporting a “Walking Across America” sign, said he and Campbell, a Crossfit personal trainer and Army veteran who served in the 75th Ranger Regiment, have been friends for 10 years.

Campbell and Colon both grew up in inner-city Philadelphia in different neighborhoods, and both said they were helped by the guiding hands of youth mentors.

“We were both knuckleheads growing up,” Colon said. “But we had somebody that showed us the light and showed us the way. We just want to pay it forward.”

Campbell said he feels the first step in getting the United States moving in the right direction is mentorship of those who lack a support system.

“Kids from the inner city are strong, good kids, they just need a little bit of guidance,” Campbell said. “Both of us know what that is like — and we had people reach out to us and guide us in the right direction.”

Although the men camp most of the time after walking 20 to 25 miles a day, they said strangers along the way have opened up their homes, letting them sleep on couches and clean up in showers.

“It’s been amazing so far,” Colon said. “There have been so many nice people helping us out. Lots of people are just curious about what we are doing and they stop to ask how they can help out. People have even opened their homes to us. It’s very inspiring.”

According to Campbell, the trek brings home the reality that it is OK to embrace the unknown and rely on help from total strangers.

“Every time we’ve found ourselves in a bad situation, there’s somebody there at the right time and ready to help,” he said. “The generosity of people has been unreal.”

And how will the two make it home?

“We’re not looking that far ahead, but we’ll figure it out when we get there,” Campbell said.

Colon and Campbell started their journey June 1 in Camden, N.J., and plan to make it to Indianapolis by Aug. 9. Their final destination is Huntington Beach, Calif., by mid-November.

Not everyone is able to take the time to walk across the country for a cause, but Campbell and Colon, both active with the CrossFit community in Philadelphia, encouraged people to support Steve’s Club’s local chapter, Bomani Strength, in Cleveland.

Those interested in donating to the men’s campaign can visit their Advance Across America Facebook page. For more information on Steve’s Club, visit www.stevesclub.org.

Contact Jon Wysochanski at 329-7123 or jwysochanski@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonWysochanski.