Wes Alford SCOTT OLSON
You never know when an interesting human interest story will fall right into your lap.
This past Labor Day, I was working on getting ready for this week's edition of The Chronicle when the phone rang. It was Jana Lee with Jana Lee Massage Therapy in Creswell. Jana said she was at Creswell Coffee with a gentleman who was hiking the Pacific Crest Trail and thought I might be interested in interviewing him for a story. I informed her that I was the only one in the office today, but he could stop by and chat with me if he wanted. Jana said he was going to have a massage after coffee and then he would stop by The Chronicle.
A little while later, a guy with a backpack came walking up to the door with a couple of his relatives. He had on a T-shirt that was covered in signatures and sponsors. The man introduced himself as Wes Alford, 51, who grew up in Creswell and now was living in Phoenix, Ariz. Wes said that he went to school in Creswell with the class of 1985, but decided to go into the military before graduating.
So, what brought Wes back to Creswell? He told me that he still has relatives in the area and since he was hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, he decided to take a break from his hike to meet with family and friends and spread the word about diabetes, which is near and dear to his heart.
You see, Wes informed me that he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes five years ago, and since that time, his kids have also been diagnosed with diabetes. So, Wes became an advocate for type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and came up with the idea to hike the entire length of the Pacific Crest Trail to raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) to help bring awareness and educate people of the effects of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
According to Wes, he spent 18 months planning and preparing for the 2,652-mile hike. He went out and gathered sponsors who helped with supplies and arranging for places to stay while taking a break from hiking the trail. He has also financed much of the trip out of his own pocket. But he has been receiving a great deal of support along the way through his Facebook page: Hiking For A Cure The PCT Project and a Go Fund Me page.
Wes said that he began his quest on March 17 in Campo, Calif. and has been hiking for the past five and a half months northward, some 1,800 miles spreading the word about diabetes. Wes said his goal is to raise $100,000 for JDRF, but he has raised about $5,000 so far from individual donors. He's hoping that with 800 miles to go until he reaches the Canadian border, he can get some corporate donors to help him get closer to his goal. Wes predicts that he will complete his hike by Oct. 15.
So far the 1,800 mile hike has had a dramatic impact on Wes. He weighed 255 pounds when he began his hike on March 17. Today he weighs 193 pounds and feels great. Wes said he had to start out gradually when beginning the hike, and now is able to hike 20 to 30 miles a day.
He has had some issues with fires in the Sierra Mountains this summer, where he needed to take a two-week break. But he was able to help out the fire fighters by working in the kitchen to help feed them, which he found rewarding and helped him give back for them feeding him during his time off from the hike.
Wes said he is auctioning off his T-shirt, JDRF Hiking For A Cure. The PCT Project that he has worn while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. It's silent auction that will end on Sept. 9. Funds will be donated to JDRF and you can see photos of Wes wearing the T-shirt on his Facebook page: Hiking For A Cure The PCT Project. You can also follow Wes as he completes the 800-mile trek through Oregon, Washington and up to the Canadian border.
Wes noted that the support he's received has been tremendous, and he is gaining new Facebook followers every day. His nickname is Captain D for diabetic hiker. If you log onto his Facebook page, you can see all the people he spent time with in Creswell this past Labor Day weekend, talking about his hike and diabetes advocacy and education, which is the real reason for his mission.
”The support has been overwhelming,” Wes said. ”This is not a vacation, it's a job. The whole focus is to do the job,” which is diabetes.
So as you can see, this Labor Day didn't end up being just another quiet holiday at the office. It was inspirational on many facets. Wes Alford is a man on a mission and he is helping us all understand how diabetes can impact our lives, and hopefully find a cure for this disease some time in the future.
Best of luck to Wes as you hit the trail again and complete your mission!