For Steve Fugate, life is all about the journey — literally.
Walking more than 34,000 miles, Fugate has successfully crossed the continental United States seven times to raise awareness about depression and suicide. The 67-year-old’s message is simple, and it’s scrawled across a sign he always carries with him: LOVE LIFE.
That’s the message he wishes he could have imparted on his children. His son committed suicide in 1999. His daughter, who suffered from MS, succumbed to an accidental drug overdose just a few years later. “When I lost my son, I forgot about all other plans I had,” Fugate said in a short film for Korduroy TV. “So I walk.”
Fugate’s LOVE LIFE Walk started shortly after his son’s death. During each cross-country trek, he tells himself that this is the last one. Yet, he keeps going. Last March, he left his hometown of Vero Beach, Florida, on his eighth adventure. His fans — thousands of them — keep up with his journey via Facebook. “I love Facebook. I go on there and it’s a way for me to get to more than just who I meet on the road,” Fugate says. “And it’s also a way for me to let people know that life is not what these newscasters have grabbed from all over the world to scare the living crap out of you. It’s a way for me to show people that random acts of kindness to happen to me on a daily basis — sometimes numerous in one day.”
Indeed, it’s the kindness of others and the desire to find what he’s looking for (whatever that may be) — “I’ll know when I get it,” he says — that persuades him to keep walking. He’s walked through rain, hail, snow and sleet. He’s climbed mountains and been stalked by a mountain lion. He’s set up camp near tracks left by a grizzly bear. Five times, he’s struggled to cross the desert, each time proclaiming that he will never do it again. Yet he keeps going. “My creed is to mend the broken heart while still beating,” Fugate says. “I’m forced to keep walking with this LOVE LIFE sign because every once in awhile someone stops and they need it.”
But he’s not just healing others through his walks. He’s healing himself, as well. “I call what I do trail therapy,” he says. “It’s just like every other trail. It goes both ways. This isn’t just for others. This is for me too.”