Jack Fussell returned to Canton last week after finishing up his 2,600-mile journey from Savannah to Monterey, Calif. The trip ended with a swim in the Pacific Ocean and raised about $27,000 for the Alzheimer’s Association, he said.
Fussell, a former Belk department store employee in Canton, said Alzheimer’s is a subject which hits close to home.
“My dad died with Alzheimer’s in 2000, and he had six brothers and sisters that had Alzheimer’s also,” he said.
Considering his family history, Fussell said the disease has always been of interest to him. One night more than a year ago, he decided he would help the cause.
“I was sitting on my couch at home, and I thought ‘I’m going to run across the United States,’” he said.
Fussell said he got on the phone telling friends about what he planned to do, although he doubts any of them took him seriously at the time.
“I don’t think the first one of them believed it, to be honest,” he said.
In the days that followed, he started planning and would eventually train about seven months for the coast-to-coast trek, which began Jan. 12. Along with him, Fussell pushed a child’s stroller named Wilson, after the volleyball companion of Tom Hanks’ character in the movie “Cast Away.”
“I’m a tremendous Tom Hanks fan,” Fussell said, adding that Hanks’ more-famous film “Forrest Gump” was part of the inspiration for the trip.
Inside the stroller, Fussell carried provisions and camping gear, although it turned out he didn’t have much use for a tent.
“I thought that 90 percent of the time I would be in my tent, but I think I spent 10 nights in that tent,” Fussell said. “All the rest of the time, people either got me hotels or motels or found out about me and contacted me and said I could stay (with them.)”
He also stayed at many assisted living and nursing homes.
Along the way on the cross-country trip, Fussell said he spent a great deal of his days visiting with the people he met and doing media events at the Alzheimer’s Association offices he passed.
Before the trip was over Fussell said he made it on 27 television shows and got in about 60 newspapers.
He also handed out more than 3,000 bracelets with phone number of Alzheimer’s support hotline, he said.
Fussell said he’s come a long way from that night in his living room when the idea came to him, particularly since the trip only became an Alzheimer’s fundraiser after a friend suggested it.
“The second person on the phone said ‘Are you doing this for a charity?,’ Fussell said. “Immediately, without any thought at all, I said ‘I’m doing it for the Alzheimer’s people.’”