In July 15 IssueBy Derek AaronTimes Journal Reporter
A Michigan teenager with a rare form of muscular dystrophy is walking from his home in Hillsdale to Lake Seminole, Fla. and made his way through Russell County earlier this week.
Dillon Straub, 16, and three close friends have traveled more than 300 miles of his trip so far and have approximately 500 to go to reach his destination.
He is joined by John May, a 33-year-old family friend, along with friends Jared "Bo Bo" Kennedy, 19, and Brandon "Red" Wheeler, 21.
Kennedy is driving a car and Wheeler hands out informational flyers about Dillon to the public as well as providing drinks to Dillon and May, who are both walking the entire trip.
Dillon described himself as an average teenager who enjoys sports and hanging out with friends and this walk combines his love of exercise and friendship.
The foursome reached the Russell County line on Monday, staying Monday night at the Cumberland Lodge in Russell Springs before continuing their journey down US 127 and lodging at the Lake Cumberland State Park Tuesday night.
"Long John Silvers gave us dinner and treated us really well there," May said of Monday night's meal.
Tuesday's break from the hot weather allowed for the walk to be done in cooler temperatures and light rain, a welcome change to the entire group.
"It felt like air conditioning outside compared to what it has been like," Dillon said.
The group, who average 18 or so miles per day, said they are in awe of how nice folks have been to them on their trip.
"We've met a lot more good than bad," Dillon said. "People have been really generous. When we don't have motel for the night we'll stop at a farm and knock on the door and they'll let us set up our tent and camp there," May added.
The summer-long journey is to increase awareness about Dillon's disease and to raise money for research, he said.
The goal he has set is $3,000, and more than $500 has been pledged so far.
Straub was diagnosed with an incurable and untreatable form of muscular dystrophy known as Limb/Girdle Muscular Dystrophy Type II not long ago and doctors say he will probably be in a wheelchair by his mid-twenties.
"I started having problems a couple of years ago but I just found out I had this two months ago," he said. He has been treated at the University of Michigan and the Cleveland Clinic.
With that future staring him in the face, Dillon has kept walking his walk, although he says the hills and valleys of Kentucky have been much more difficult than the flatter Ohio terrain.
"But the scenery here has been much better here," May added, saying the group was looking forward to seeing Lake Cumberland.
The walk began in mid-June on US 127 in Hillsdale near the northern Ohio border and will end just across the northwestern Florida border in less than a month, May said.
The group hopes to be in Chattanooga, Tennessee by late this week before taking U.S. 27 to Lake Seminole. Dillon, who will be a high school junior next year, will then be driven to Fort Myers where they will stay at the Beacon Beachfront for two weeks for a well-deserved rest.
"The first day down there we're going to go see if we can help up with the oil cleanup," May said. "We'll probably have leftover food and water to give to them down there from our trip."
Dillon and his buddies said they wanted to not only raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association but help out folks along the way if they could.
With a heart like that and the determination he has shown on this journey, it is hard not to root for someone like Dillon and his pals as they continue down their own path.
For more information about Dillon's walk or to donate, go to https://www.joinmda.org/dillonswalk2010/dillon_23.
A Facebook page has also been set up to follow Dillon on his trip. Go to Facebook.com and search "Dillon's Walk to Florida" to keep up with the trip south.