An Appalachian Hike for Behavioral Health
EVERY YEAR, thousands of people set out to hike the Appalachian Trail. Spanning approximately 2,189 miles from Mount Katahdin in Maine to Springer Mountain in Georgia, it takes most hikers five to seven months to complete and only about one in four do. One of those “2000-milers” is local resident, Heath Hunt . But he didn't just hike, he used the opportunity to support a cause important to him. As Heath raised money for his hike, he also raised money for Friends of Advantage, a 501c3 nonprofit that serves as the Foundation to Advantage Behavioral Health Systems .
Friends of Advantage collaborates with Advantage to bridge gaps in funding that are not covered by the government, insurance, or families. For those experiencing mental illness, developmental disabilities, addiction, and homelessness, this assistance is not only needed but much appreciated. Heath explains, “I chose Friends of Advantage because mental health issues are an important topic and concern for me. I have battled with ADHD since a young age and have friends and family who suffer from other mental illnesses. I also wanted to support a local non-profit organization that helps people in the areas I have lived.”
A Boy's Dream Becomes
"My dad first told me about people hiking the AT when I was young, and I thought it was the coolest thing for someone to do."
Heath started his hike in Maine on June 21, 2017, and headed south, traveling through 14 states — New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia. Heath says, “Maine was by far my favorite state because of the remoteness. At night the stars lit up the sky with almost zero light pollution, it was truly wilderness, just me and the woods.” He continues, “I don't really have a state that I didn't enjoy, each state has its own uniqueness about it. The White Mountains of New Hampshire were a close second favorite. The Presidential range and Franconia Ridge made for stunning views because you were up above the tree line for most of the time. The fall foliage started to peak when I got into Virginia, which really made for awesome views in the Shenandoahs.”
During his journey, Heath attempted the Four State Challenge — a challenge in which you hike 43 miles through four states in 24 hours. He started at the Pennsylvania/Maryland border and ended up at the West Virginia/Virginia border 16 hours later. He describes it as “one of the most rewarding and hardest things I did on the trail.”
Once he reached Tennessee, Heath started to feel like he was home and shortened his days to take it all in and enjoy being in nature. When he arrived at Springer Mountain on December 9, he was greeted with 10 inches of snow. “It made it awesome to end that way,” he says.
In late January, Heath and his mom, Tina Hunt, came to present a check to the board of Friends of Advantage. Heath said, “Giving back is something I always wanted to do. I started a GoFundMe so people could help me, and it makes it even better to help somebody else out.” He saw that same generosity along the trail. He says, “I can’t tell you how many times on the trail someone gave me something without wanting anything back in return. It’s nice to be able to give back.”
Now Heath shares stories of his time on the trail. His biggest worry? Ticks. He saw one moose (in town, no less) and an adolescent bear along the trail. He carried 25 to 30 pounds of gear with him and ate when he wanted to eat, hiked when he wanted to hike, and slept when he wanted to sleep. His mom shared how proud she is of him. “No mother wants to think about her son in the wilderness on his own, but he researched and knew what he needed. He was extremely prepared.”
What's next? Heath plans to go back to work, take short hikes here and there, and decide what his next big adventure will be... maybe the Pacific Coast Trail?
Thank You, Heath!
Congratulations on your accomplishment!
And thank you for your donation to Friends of Advantage.
Your generosity will help others reach their own goals.
posted 04/18/2018 in Friends of Advantage