Landeros walking America for St. Jude
NATCHEZ — Mario Landeros is on his fourth pair of tennis shoes since starting his trek across America nine months ago.
Landeros isn’t attempting to break Guinness World Record or get his face on a Wheaties cereal box; his time and effort is for a nobler cause: raising $1 million and awareness for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Landeros gave up his apartment in Los Angeles, donated any belongings he didn’t need or want to put in storage and hit the road last May.
“I didn’t think about it too much,” he said. “I knew if I did, I would talk myself out of it.”
Landeros’ journey brought him last week to Natchez, one of a couple of places he said he will remember for overwhelming hospitality.
“I’m really amazed at just how nice people are here,” he said. “This has been one of the few times I’ve felt sad about leaving a town or state.
“I originally thought, ‘OK, it’s going to take me about three weeks to cross Mississippi,’” he said. “I’ve been here almost two months, and that’s just because people would see me walking down the road and say, ‘Do you need a place to stay? We have an extra room.’ That eventually turned into ‘Why don’t you stick around another day?’
“And I did.”
Landeros came to Natchez from Memphis where he visited St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
“It was really amazing to see what they do there to create an environment where the kids feel like they’re not in a regular hospital or thinking ‘Oh, I’m here for more surgeries or more shots or more chemo,’” he said.
Landeros has been volunteering with children who have chronic or life-threatening illnesses for the last five years through the Starlight Children’s Foundation, raising funds for the group for the past two years.
“I wanted to set a high goal, and I was trying to come up with ideas for what I could do, and this idea just popped into my head.”
Landeros saved money for the trip and put his work in film composing on hold.
His original goal for completing the trip was this winter.
“There is no timeline anymore,” he said laughing.
From Natchez, Landeros will head to Baton Rouge, then across to Florida, down to Miami and then back up to Maine.
It is a good thing Fleet Feet in Memphis sponsors Landeros, because he is going to need a few more pairs of shoes.
“They last me about 600 or 700 miles,” he said, adding he averages between 20 and 25 miles each day.
By the end of his journey, Landeros said he estimates he will have walked 4,000 miles.
Although Landeros’ goal of $1 million is a big one, he said he has never thought about stopping.
“I’ve had moments where I thought, ‘This is really tough,’” he said. “But I’ve never thought about stopping. When I think about what those kids are going through at St. Jude, I just know this is nothing compared to that.”
Those toughest moments came when Landeros was crossing the Mojave Desert.
“After a couple of days, I had to switch to night-walking, or I was going to run through all of my water,” Landeros said.
The journey, the walking and all the tough moments will be worth it, Landeros said, when he reaches his destination of Maine and is able to present a check to St. Jude.
Part of Landeros’ mission, he said, is to show people that no matter who they are, they can make a difference.
“I don’t have my name plastered on cereal boxes, TV or billboards, but I thought there’s no reason someone like me can’t raise that amount of money for a good cause,” Landeros said. “Hopefully, this will show other people how anyone can do this kind of thing. They don’t have to be big-name starts to have an impact on something like this.”
Landeros has raised $1,300 so far on his trip. Anyone wishing to donate can visit his Operation:Cheer Facebook page at Facebook.com/operationcheer.