Community members may have seen him hiking along the roads and trails of Elkin these last few days. Chuck Harmon is making a walk on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail this July to end child summer hunger and raise funds for Second Harvest Food Bank and he is passing through the Elkin area this week.
Harmon’s trek started on July 4 near Boone and Blowing Rock and he has been hiking the Mountains-to-Sea Trail towards Burlington for a total of 250 miles. The walk serves two purposes — to raise awareness and funds to end the issue of child hunger in northwest North Carolina, and to celebrate 15 years of food drives with WXII by hiking 15 miles a day. Harmon has set up a goal of trying to raise 100,000 $3 donations. Harmon and his friends also are holding a food drive at the Elkin Rescue Squad on North Bridge Street Wednesday from 5 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
“We’re declaring independence from hunger for these kids,” said Harmon. “I began back on July 4. While all my co-workers were enjoying the day off, I was enjoying life on the trail.”
Harmon’s inspiration for the trip came while preparing to do the summertime drive with WXII last year. While looking at how donations had been flat across the board for the past couple of years, Harmon asked, “What would you think if I walked from the TV station to Mount Airy?”
People got excited and the walk generated a lot of donations. A second walk was held in winter for the holiday drive with Harmon walking from Yadkinville, through Elkin, and finishing at Wilkesboro.
“In the spring they asked what are you going to do this time?” said Harmon. “I said, ‘Well, we’ve been telling people for 15 years on the TV station that our service area is from Boone to Burlington. Let’s show them this time.’
“The whole motivation for making this work was when I was a young man,” said Harmon. “I was on free and reduced lunch so I understand where a lot of people are at and are going through. I want to see those young folks have the best opportunities possible and it’s well documented that if a child doesn’t have proper nutrition in those early years, they don’t grow right, they don’t learn right, and they don’t retain what they’ve learned one year to the next. I want every person in northwest North Carolina to have a good opportunity and a chance to grow.”
So far the hike has been tougher than expected for Harmon and some parts of the trip have been tough going.
“I’ve done a lot of backpacking all through my life with the scout program, but the Mountains-to-Sea Trail on the Blue Ridge portion is no joke,” said Harmon. “It’s tough terrain. Lots of steep uphills and hard downhills. Now that I’m getting out of the mountains I’m also feeling the heat effect. Well’s Knob was tough. That joker ain’t no joke.”
The hike has been a strenuous trip, but Harmon also has enjoyed the beauty the trail has to offer. In addition, he has met a lot of great people on his trek.
“I think it’s just the encouragement that folks give you that I love most,” said Harmon. “The company I’ve had is really good. My first week hiking, everyone who hiked with me were Eagle Scouts. Monday, during the lunch news, a family with eight kids made me a homemade card, gave a donation and hung out for a while. They were very cool people. Then at the end of the walk, a mother came out with two kids and a donation. Those kind of things really touch me and I can tell that they’re excited.”
Helping him along the way are his friends and acquaintances. While Harmon hikes the majority of the trail, he has close friends joining him on his journey or even volunteering to hike portions of the trail whenever he needs a break. Wednesday, Harmon and his friends are working at the Elkin Rescue Squad with WXII Channel 12 from 5 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. collecting donations.
Harmon believes he has not done enough training for the walk.
“What we did in the months of May and June, we offered churches, schools and civic groups the opportunity to do a training walk. Folks could pick a date to come out and walk and they would give a donation. Some were short and some were lengthy. Still, I should have done more personal training. It’s a day-by-day proposition. There was a group called The Old Farts Hiking Club out in Wilkesboro and the youngest members of that club were in their upper 60s and the oldest members over 90 years old. They all out hiked me, but they took me on one section of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail for one of the hikes. But that’s all I’ve seen of it. For me, it’s an adventure.”
Community members can follow Harmon’s journey throughout July at https://facebook.com/Summermealsmatter/. Donations to support Harmon and Second Harvest Food Bank’s efforts can be made online at hungerncwnc.org or mailed to Second Harvest Food Bank at 3655 Reed St., Winston-Salem, NC 27107.
Harmon is working his way down towards Rockford Friday, and then Saturday, he will be going through Pilot Mountain State Park heading towards Hanging Rock.
Harmon hopes his efforts will have an impact on helping children in the region.
“The sad fact is that to do anything it takes money, and without the public engaging with the projects, it’s just not going to happen,” said Harmon. “You have to make them aware and a lot of folks don’t realize just how bad hunger is in northwest North Carolina. Out of the 18 counties we serve, there are 300,000 people who depend on the services of the food bank. That’s a lot and that’s all because we’ve lost furniture, tobacco, manufacturing, and textile jobs over the years thanks to NAFTA back in the ’90s, and we’ve never recovered from that. We still rank as one of the highest in the nations of people in poverty. It is rough out here for people.”
Troy Brooks may be reached at 336-258-4058.