May 28, 2012

On the road: Woman walking across nation


CENTRE — At first glance, the chipper, fast-talking woman in the tinted shades and reflective vest didn't seem like someone who just walked over 550 miles.

Turned out, Washington state native Teri Swezey had walked around 15 miles—her daily average—on May 22, when she found herself in the friendly confines of the Cherokee County Historical Museum in Centre.

“Everywhere I've been the people have been great,” Swezey told a group of local media representatives and Dave Crum, director of the museum.

Swezey, 57, is planning on walking a couple thousand more miles before she's finished, sometime around mid-October. She is a public health researcher by trade. But after her mother passed away recently from late-stage dementia, Swezey decided to walk across America to raise awareness for the “vulnerable elderly and their caregivers.”

“I believe that by raising awareness, many others who share the same struggles mom and I went through will find relief and support along their own journeys with aging,” Sewzey wrote on her website (

Swezey's SOAR Feat 2012 Walk is a part of the mission of “Seniors Obtaining Assistance and Resources” (SOAR) Inc., formed to help meet the needs of the elderly Americans and the sons and daughters charged with caring for them in their twilight years.

Swezey expects the funds raised during the SOAR Walk will be used to pay for co-pays for prescriptions, low-income meal programs and in-home caregivers for a portion of the nation's struggling elderly. She hopes to raise around $180,000.

“Every penny counts,” Swezey said Tuesday afternoon as she cooled off in the new coffee shop at the Historical Museum. “If two people pledge a penny per mile, that's $30 for each of the approximately 3,000 miles of the walk.”

Swezey began her walk at Wrightsville Beach, N.C. in April and plans to reach Cambria, Calif. before Halloween. She said she plans to stop at nursing homes and assisted living centers across the nation on her way to the West Coast. When told she had already walked past Cherokee County Health and Rehabilitation Center on her way into town, she pledged to head back before continuing on to Gadsden.

Swezey isn't completely alone on her journey. She has friends following along with a small tow-behind camper trailer. She said Wal-Mart parking lots and camping grounds are great places to rest up for another day walking along the nation's secondary roads.

“We're staying off the interstates as much as possible,” she said. “We've trying to average around 15-20 miles per day.”

To follow Swezey's route across the country or to pledge to the cause, visit her website or follow along on Twitter at @SOARFeat2012.