"Can't stop, won't stop." These words may seem meaningless to some, but for the past 72 days they have been the motivation for Brandon Scott Perry.
On April 3, 2011 Perry embarked on a journey that will affect himself and thousands of others for the rest of their lives. What started out as a dream turned into reality and sparked a movement - Trek for the Cause. Perry's 2,354 mile expedition for the American Cancer Society began on foot in Cincinnati and ended on bicycle in Los Angeles. At war with the weather, fatigue, his emotions, physical pain and, at times, boredom, he managed to overcome what seemed impossible.
Monday I had the chance to meet the man who has so greatly impacted myself and others alike somehow touched by cancer. Two Blue Moons, a near death experience with a sharp tortilla chip and a plateful of quesadillas later, we were no longer strangers.
CityBeat: How did you come up with the idea for the trek?
Brandon Perry: I've always wanted to go out on the open road and see how far I could go. On Nov. 4, a week after I found out my grandpa was terminal and I remember waking up and was like this is what I'm going to do: I am going to dress in all hot pink and ride a pink lawn mower across the country for breast cancer. Since that's not street legal and what not, I just decided I was going to walk across the country for the American Cancer Society to cover all types of cancers.
Olivia Doan is only eight years old and was diagnosed with a brain tumor on Oct. 24, 2010. She along with a grandfather and close friend, were the main inspirations for the trek. Olivia finished her last chemotherapy on June 19 and is now heading down the road of recovery.
CB: Were you always a runner?
BP: No, I've never been a runner. I go to the gym, but I've never did a marathon, never did a 5K or anything close to a marathon and have never been a biker. So for me, to pick up a bike 600 miles in was crazy. The last bike I had was when I was 15 and it had pegs on the back.
CB: What was the most difficult part about leaving?
BP: I knew it was going to be lonely, which it was. Unless I was staying in a firehouse, it was super lonely. If I wasn't in a firehouse, I was alone in a hotel or at someone's house. One night I just tented-it on the side of the road in Indiana. And having to leave my grandfather, knowing he might not be here when I get back.
Brandon's grandfather was diagnosed with bone cancer. He had the joy of seeing his grandson upon return on June 13. He's doing much better and continues to be Brandon's motivation.
CB: What was your lowest point during the trek?
BP: Day six, it was on a Friday and I was in Bloomington, Ind. on Indiana University's campus sitting at a bench in front of Chili's. I was waiting for my friend Andy to pick me to stay with him for the night. I'm looking at my Facebook, seeing all my friends post stuff like, "I'm going out tonight," or "Meeting up with everyone tonight." At that point I was thinking, "Am I really going to do this?" I had been doing 20-30 miles a day so it was rough and I just sat there, discouraged, thinking I couldn't do this. I left my friends the next day. It had been raining, but it finally cleared up and that was the only day I ever questioned it.
CB: Highest point during the trek?
BP: Finishing 103 miles in one day, through the desert. It was so hot, my face was caked with salt, my backpack - everything was caked in salt. It just really sucked, but I did it, I got finished. I knew at that point I was only five or six days from finishing.
CB: Most interesting person you came across?
BP: Gary Kearn, who was 68 years old, biking from LA to Chicago just to see if he could do it. He finished a couple days before I did. He ended up leaving from Chicago and biking to New York just because. A 68-year-old man, out living his dream.
CB: How much money has been raised at this point?
BP: Almost $11,000.
Trek for the Cause T-Shirts can be purchased here for $22, where a portion of the money will be donated to the American Cancer Society.
CB: Advice for anyone wanting to make a difference, small or big?
BP: Well, I don't suggest walking, but don't ever give up. I was just following what my heart told me to do. I don't feel like I'm a hero, I feel like I'm just a person who had an idea, a dream. I get a lot that I'm a hero, inspiration, crazy - I get all of that. If I made somebody feel they were big enough to take on the world and didn't raise a dollar, it would still all be worth it. Be inspired by small things and big things. If you ever get the chance, inspire yourself.
CB: Any future plans?
BP: I want to do a fundraiser for Joplin, Mo. They are good people, just like any other community. But since I went through there and they helped me out a lot, I felt more responsible to do something for their community.
On June 13 after 72 long, lonely, life-changing days, Perry finally touched down to the place he calls home. He's been busy with news appearances, radio shows, other charity events and even an interview with a measly little intern from CityBeat. I'm not going to lie, I was nervous at first because we were total strangers who would not even know each other if it weren't for my Facebook Creepin' Disorder. After the first five minutes though, I felt like I had known Brandon for ten years. I can only attempt to be half as determined, confident and inspiring as he is but for now I'll continue to help make Brandon's dream become a reality.
Come meet the man yourself June 23 for Brandon's Welcome Home Event from 6-9 p.m. at the Montgomery Inn Ft. Mitchell (400 Buttermilk Pike) and from 9 p.m.-2 a.m. at Mynt Martini on Fountain Square. There's going to be tons raffles, a silent auction, food, drinks and Brandon... duh. To make a donation, visit www.trekforthecause.com.
Check out Perry's run-in with the TMZ crew: