Two Barbour county coaches made a challenging trek from Philippi to Canton, Ohio, to raise money to fund middle school sports in their county - overcoming giant blisters and many hills along the way.
Nick Mayle, a football coach and science teacher at Philippi Middle School, and Marcus Johnson, a football coach at Philip Barbour High School, organized the walk to raise awareness and funds for middle school sports in Barbour County.
The duo used their spring break to walk the 177 miles, leaving from the Philippi Courthouse on April 1 and arriving at the Pro Football Hall of Fame April 6.
Mayle said he thought the walk went really well.
"It was more physically and mentally demanding than I had anticipated," Mayle said. "My father and Toby Poling went with us and helped with drinks and food."
"At the end of the first day, we had made it to Worthington," Mayle continued. "We had a room at the Fairfield Inn. Marcus' knees gave out and so Toby walked a good part of the way. It was a rough road. What helped us along the way were signs of encouragement that students had set up. These helped us keep up our spirits."
Mayle said his wife and mother doctored their feet along the way, as blisters the size of plums were not uncommon at the end of each day.
"On Wednesday we walked to Wheeling, and it was a hard day," Mayle said. "It was very hilly and we walked off the main road. We ended up at the Hampton Inn near Elm Grove. Teams of kids met us and we walked with them through Wheeling."
Thursday the duo traveled on toward Ohio, but faced the challenge of climbing many hills.
"There were two really large hills which were hard to climb, but they led to rolling hills the rest of that day," Mayle said. "We made it to the Harrison Hills Church that evening, and they had a wonderful chicken dinner for us.
"We left super early Friday to arrive in my hometown of East Canton by 6:30 p.m.," Mayle continued. "Missy Kaiser, a Barbour County coach, brought the cross country kids to meet us and they escorted us the last 5 miles to East Canton. The best man from my wedding also joined our walk."
Mayle said the East Canton Church of God had 50 people meet and walk with them.
"My sister ordered pizza for us that night and my wife doctored my wounds. We stayed with family and met at the church for a breakfast. We left at 10 a.m. and arrived at the Pro Football Hall of Fame at 1:30. We were escorted by the local fire department and police. Also, a group of Marines met with us to cheer us on."
Mayle said the reception was at the new reception hall at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
"It was great," Mayle said. "There was a slide show of photos and we shared the day with supporters, friends and family from Philippi. Athletes from the county also joined us and we toured the Hall of Fame. We drove back to Philippi on Sunday, and were back at work on Monday.
"It was good to see all of the support from the people of Barbour County and see them come together for the kids," Mayle said. "I also appreciate the great support from those in Canton, Ohio. My sister raised $2,600 for the cause with a bowl-a-thon. My dad said there all good people all around and you have to find them and they have to find you. Things like this bring out the best in folks."
Lori Talbott Wetzel, president of the Barbour All County Sports Organization, said the group has been busy.
"We sponsored an elimination dinner and a middle school basketball tournament," Wetzel said. "We have received many generous donations and sponsors from corporations and businesses."
Wetzel said the group received money from sales from Hometown Pizzaria and Wind Meal Pizza, and from sales at Mace's Pharmacy and the Belington Prescription Center.
"Shop N Save in Belington and Philippi are donating 10 percent of their sales on April 27 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.," Wetzel said. "The middle school kids will help that day by bagging groceries."
Wetzel said upcoming events to benefit middle school sports include a benefit motorcycle ride May 4, an ATV ride in September and the Run For It in September. She said they also hope to have a fundraiser during the Barbour County Fair.
"People say there is nothing in Barbour County for the kids to do," Wetzel said. "But the people here came together and helped pull this all together. We did this for the kids, and sports help the kids. ... I am glad we are able to make sure the kids have access to sports in middle school."