As he takes his first steps along California’s Santa Monica Pier, Michael McKenna knows he has a long, long road ahead of him.
The Norwell man has the grueling task of walking the southern United States, starting in Santa Monica, traveling nearly 2,500 miles in about four months, and ending in Jacksonville, Florida. Mr. McKenna travels far to help raise funds for his children at the New England Center for Autism, a school for students with autism in Southborough.
“This school offers the highest standards for children with severe autism. My son (also named Mike) attended from the age of four and a half to 22.
The school offers boarding and day programs for students who are severely affected by autism and are not well taught by the local school system. Since his son started attending school, McKenna has run various charities to support the school.
For 12 years, he ran a golf tournament, “The Mike,” but COVID-19 has made it difficult for him to host large gatherings. McKenna then organized a charity walk along the Cape Cod Rail Trail.
Seeing success through walking and traveling across America on YouTube, McKenna decided to try The Mike Walk Across America.
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“I wanted to do something big, something good for the school,” McKenna said. “I thought if I thought bigger, people would give bigger.”
So McKenna, 56, began his journey on Tuesday. He plans to walk an average of 22 miles a day. By mixing in several rest days, he walks through nine states. He said he dropped the
McKenna said he’s looking forward to hitting his goals, but he’s also realistic about his ability to walk distance and understands the limits if he needs to make adjustments.
“There is a 100-mile stretch of the Mojave Desert that has no service. “I’m ready, I’ve trained. I’m going to finish, but if I get hurt, I won’t be a hero. I’m not a survivalist, so I’m going to go on an adventure someday.” Take your time and do your best. ”
McKenna travels to large parts of the country to raise awareness about autism and its impact on children and their families. is receiving
“It’s been a short time since I’ve been in California, but it’s been a really interesting reaction,” McKenna said. “People are interested in what I do. They care. It’s been heartwarming so far, and donations are pouring in.”
where does the money go
McKenna aims to raise $150,000 — He was about half way there before the walk started. Blue Cross Blue Shield is the primary sponsor, contributing $15,000. Quincy’s construction firm Lee Kennedy and Walpole’s Rorusso Heavy Equipment are also major sponsors, with many small independent donations. Funds go to the New England Center for Children’s General Fund, which supports schools that help students with a variety of needs.
“This enables things like alternative communication devices,” McKenna said. “Many children like my son are non-verbal. The only way he communicates is through technology. He only speaks about 12 languages, but without that expensive technology, If he hadn’t, he wouldn’t have been able to communicate.It’s an expensive skill, and the money will help you acquire it, and train your teachers to learn how to use it. , will be used to fund these programs needed to help these children improve.
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According to Chief Development Officer Jared Bouzan, NECC was founded in 1975 and supports about 200 students between the ages of 4 and 22. The non-commuting student lives in his 14 homes in Southborough and attends school every day. The funds raised by McKenna will help NECC support a range of goals necessary to enrich student lives, he added.
“The money goes to everything from student events, to improving technology, to establishing additional resources,” Bouzan said. “Currently, we are building a dental clinic on our premises for our students. We also need funding for town events that students cannot attend, such as sports days and science fairs. It also helps support and meet needs at school.”
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Through the Mike Golf Tournament, Massachusetts Charity Walk, and now Mike Walk Across America, the McKenna family has helped raise more than $800,000 for the school since 2009.
“What Mike is doing is absolutely unbelievable. — “He is a great example of how dedicated our parents are to helping their children and other families. We have had an amazing amount of support from other parents and the Southborough community at large.” .”
To donate to The Mike Walk Across America, please visit https://www.necc.org/mike-walk/.