On March 8, Bobby Zerwick, 22, set out to hike the entire Appalachian Trail (AT). His goal? To raise $5,000 to help in the fight against Alzheimer’s—the disease his grandmother and his girlfriend’s grandmother suffered from before they passed away.
The Kutztown University graduate had considered a number of nonprofits to walk for before he chose to support Cure Alzheimer’s Fund. He selected it because he knew all the money he raised would go directly toward finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.
Zerwick covered the 2,187 miles through 14 states—from Springer Mountain, Ga., to Mount Katahdin in Maine—despite tremendous foot pain, looming summits (Mount Washington, 6,200 feet, and Mount Lafayette, 5,200 feet, among them) and challenging weather elements. His journey included plummeting temperatures at night, deer flies and steep drop-offs that required him to “scramble” on all fours.
He averaged about 15 miles per day over a 10- to 12-hour span carrying a 20-pound pack on his back with only the essentials: a tent, sleeping bag, change of clothes, food and water, flashlight, toothbrush and cell phone, which he only used when he had to. He also carried two walking sticks that he says were “essential for hiking downhill.” He only stopped when downpours made the trail like a river. He lost 15 pounds, got into the best shape of his life, and still was always hungry. He survived on Pop-Tarts®, GORP (a mixture of granola, oats, raisins and peanuts) and other high-energy foods.
After more than five months in the wilderness, Zerwick finished the AT on Aug. 17—with something else to celebrate as well. After hiking more than 2,000 miles, his girlfriend Ashley Bragner joined him for the very last part of his trek—5,200 feet up Mount Katahdin in Maine. And there on the summit he proposed to her.
Zerwick not only finished the AT at a very respectable pace, he exceeded his fundraising goal, raising approximately $5,200 for Cure Alzheimer’s Fund. “We are grateful for his commitment to our cause,” says Tim Armour, chairman and CEO of Cure Alzheimer’s Fund. “I’m really proud of what I’ve accomplished,” says Zerwick. “It’s rewarding to know that I did something to help other people.”