SALYERSVILLE – A Virginia man walked through Salyersville on Monday, staying the night at the fire station before continuing his walk across the country to raise awareness and money for a good cause.
Steve Young, 67, of southwest Virginia, has just over 400 miles left of his journey, which he started in 2020, with an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 miles already under his belt and 40 states visited.
On Monday, July 10, Young stopped by Salyersville City Hall, with Nola Johnson making several phone calls for him to help him on his journey.
From there, he found his way to the Salyersville Fire and Police Station, just two doors down, staying there for the night.
“I’ve met so many wonderful people in this town,” Young said. “Wavy (Nathan) gave me his bed and he slept in a cot,” also noting that his new friend Wavy’s wife sent him some pork chops for the road.
He pulled out his laptop from his conservatively-estimated 80-pound pack and worked on his book he’s writing about the journey, watched some spiritually based movies on a free site before getting some rest. Wavy washed his clothes at his house and brought them back to him for the next morning.
“Everywhere I go you run into the nicest people,” Young said, thank Nola, the mayor, fire chief, Steve, and of course, Wavy, while also remembering a photographer/journalist duo he recently met in Paris, Kentucky, after a man stopped to take his picture.
While Young stopped in the Salyersville Independent Tuesday morning before heading to Paintsville, he explained why he’s on this mission.
With the exception of a month here and a week there, totaling maybe 7 months, he said he’s been walking since March 10, 2020, to bring awareness to Victory Junction, a camp in North Carolina for special needs and critically ill children, started by the Pettys of NASCAR.
“The camp has been open since 2004 in honor of Kyle’s son, Adam, who we lost in a practice session for a race at just 19 years old,” Young said. “I raced all my life and I raced with Kyle. I grew up with a girl with birth defects and knew firsthand about the stigma the comes with that. I got it in my mind with the Lord’s prompting to do what I’m doing with this camp,” Young said.
Young has walked coast to coast, then made two smaller loops, with him currently on the last 400 miles before he reaches his home in Patrick Springs, VA.
“The camp opened in 2004 for special needs children,” Young explained. “Some go to get away from doctors. Many won’t make it to adolescence, but 40,000 children have came to camp there since it opened, and it’s totally free for those families.”
Young noted he’s not officially associated with the camp, but just wants to raise awareness for Victory Junction.
He explained that the camp has a medical center with volunteer doctors and nurses to better serve the children, accepting children ages 6 through 19 and 30 different illnesses, including neuromuscular, autism, cancer, burn victims, just to name a few.
“They’ll have a camp week for just cancer patients so they can talk to other kids going through the same things they are,” Young explained, with volunteers coming from all over to help run the camp.
“The last time I was there I ran into a girl who was on her second interview to volunteer and she was in her late teens-early 20s and from Iowa.”
Young, a retired autobody mechanic, said his family is mostly understanding of his journey.
They understand my heart and what I’m doing and are really appreciative, but my daughter is not happy, for safety reasons, of course,” he said.
He has two brothers living in Florida, where he grew up, and a sister in North Carolina. His son lives in California and his daughter in Pennsylvania, while he’s lived in the small town of Patrick Springs, Virginia, for the last 16 years.
He said the rolling hills of Eastern Kentucky are quite nice, but the 10,000-ft. elevation in Sierra, Nevada, and the mountains in Oregon as he walked close to Yosemite, proved to be a bit of a challenge for him, his 80-pound pack and 5-foot walking stick, as did an unexpected area of upper New York.
“An older gentleman was out in his yard and I asked if I could fill up my water bottle,” Young said. “His wife made me a couple sandwiches for lunch, and he told me I was going to come up on two hills straight up and down. I didn’t think it was possible, but he was right!” Young laughed.
Young usually pitches a tent along his route, working with the Boy Scouts for many years. He said he’s worked with many wonderful police chiefs and fire chiefs along his way, noting everyone is so appreciative.
He continues to take photos – currently at over 3,000 pictures from his journey – and writes on his book – right now at 73 chapters, along the way.
Young notes that he doesn’t take donations for the camp – he just gives people the information to donate if they feel inclined, with the address, phone number, email, and website listed at the end of this article.
“I couldn’t tell you how much I’ve raised, but easily over $20,000,” Young laughed, remembering people he’s met on his walk who helped him out on his journey – finding a place to stay or a meal to eat – while also calling and donating to the camp.
“I keep in touch with a lot of people I’ve met,” he said, noting he texts with fire chiefs and mayors from all over the country.
He’s met with countless media outlets, with hundreds of stories popping up if you search his name online, with one radio personality coining him as “The Walking Man,” a name he doesn’t mind.
“Some people call me Forrest Gump,” Young laughed. “I get compared to Peter Jenkins a lot, and Arthur Blessitt, a preacher who walked all over the world carrying a 110-pound cross on wheels.”
He carries both of their books in his backpack and said if he sells just one of his books, he will be happy, but his focus is the journey and what it can do for the Victory Junction camp.
“NASCAR fans know about the camp and some marginal sports fans may have heard of it, but a lot of people don’t pay attention to any of that, so I just want to bring awareness to it, to help the camp, and also for anyone with special needs children. Families can take advantage of this wonderful camp and they can go there and have a good time,” Young said.
We’ll be waiting to hear about the release of his book and anyone interested can find about more about the camp from the information below:
4500 Adam’s Way, Randleman, NC 27317