News Archives

Pastor walks across America to raise awareness for drug prevention

 


Pastor walks across America to raise awareness for drug prevention

June 25, 2004                                                             

*By Heather Peck Stahl

                                               

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)—On Feb 10, the Rev. Admiral Dewey Sanders, 67, took the first step—literally — toward his dream of walking across the United States.

 

Dipping his feet in the Atlantic Ocean at Virginia Beach, Va., the pastor of Melbourne (Ky.) United Methodist Church began his 3,360-mile walk to the Pacific Ocean at Golden Gate Park, Calif.

 

Sanders dedicates his five-month walk to raising awareness and funds for “SIGNALS,” a universal substance abuse prevention, intervention and education program that was piloted at the Kentucky United Methodist Children’s Home in Versailles, Ky., where he serves as psychologist and part-time executive vice president.

 

“I believe the church denies or ignores that we have a real drug problem,” says Sanders, who walks about 30 miles a day and plans to complete his walk on July 4. “Our social creed sets us up to take the lead against drugs. I’d like people everywhere to think of the United Methodist Church when they think of drug prevention.”

 

Money raised through donations and per-mile pledges will go toward expanding SIGNALS, which stands for Setting Important Goals Now Against Life-threatening Substances. By June 25, Sanders had raised more than $60,000 for the program and hopes to raise $40,000 more by the end of his walk. He also hopes to raise an additional $150,000 for SIGNALS over the next two years to help expand the program to all 50 states and pay for necessary equipment and salaries at the nonprofit children’s home.

 

Developed by Lane Stonecypher, director of substance-abuse prevention programs at the children’s home, SIGNALS was implemented in August 2000. The program has an average 85 percent long-term success rate and risk factors generally drop by 41 percent.

 

The 12-lesson program helps 12- to 20-year-olds change their attitudes toward the allure of drugs and false stereotypes of addicts. Based on research, the program also teaches the wisdom behind abstaining from drugs, alcohol and tobacco so that students feel confident in good choices.

 

“Dewey is a hero to so many people for many different reasons,” says Stonecypher, who has worked with Sanders for almost 12 years. “He inspires everyone to find his or her best potential and believes strongly that there is no such thing as a throw-away child.”

 

Accompanying Sanders on his walk is his wife, Dotty, who drives a Chevy Tahoe that was loaned to them for free by a Chevrolet dealership. Each day, Dotty drives the car ahead of her husband to find lodging and food. The couple also uses the car to determine the best walkway in advance.

 

Without any sponsorship, Sanders forfeited his salary while on the walk and pays for gas, meals, hotel stays and phone expenses. Occasionally people donate money or gift certificates for expenses.

 

“I like to think of each dollar spent as an investment in living,” says Sanders, who estimates he’ll spend about $40,000 out-of-pocket by the time he and Dotty return home to Walton, Ky. “Through my walk I hope to encourage people of all ages to follow their dreams; because when you die, it’s too late.”

 

Sanders says he loved walking across mid-America and has always been fascinated by the people there.

 

“I love the small towns and small cafes,” he says. “People there are generally positive, Godly, optimistic about our nation and genuinely nice. They embrace their connection to one another, just as our denomination strives to do.”

 

He notes that one small United Methodist church gave their Sunday missions offering to SIGNALS when he and Dotty visited them along his walk.

 

Another joy for Sanders was walking through Poudre Canyon, Colo. There he met and befriended the director of the Boston Marathon, who was running for the TREK USA, a 10-person, 24-day relay across America to raise money for children’s charities.

 

A seasoned marathoner himself, Sanders was invited to race in the 2005 Boston Marathon as a special guest, another longtime dream of his. “Meeting this group of runners was one of the highlights of my trip,” he says. “I have been concerned about who will continue to care for the disadvantaged, often unwanted kids and adults. Meeting them really boosted my hope for what can be done.”

 

Conversations like these are what encourage Sanders as he meets new stumbling blocks along his walk.

 

For example, within the first 10 days of his trip, Sanders suffered two blood blisters and a sprained ankle and lost two toenails, though he did not become discouraged. He has walked in sun, rain, sleet and snow in temperatures ranging from 20 to 92 degrees and in heights ranging from 20 to 10,200 feet above sea level. He has also endured a rash he sought treatment for and lost a crown on a tooth.

 

He says, however, the hardest environmental factors have been dodging cars on roads with no shoulders, stepping through pollution and trash, and smelling the “overwhelming foul odor of feed lots” where 100,000 to 200,000 cattle would be forced to graze in a two-to three-square-mile area.

 

“I completely lost my appetite walking near those feed lots,” he says. 

 

Sanders, however, says the silver lining through these conditions is that along the way he found an abandoned watch, numerous tools and a woman’s wallet that he brought to the police.

 

Though Sanders has struggled with high blood pressure all his life, he found that on the hills of West Virginia his blood pressure plummeted. One Saturday he remembers stopping to rest on a guardrail. A few minutes later he awoke to find himself rolling down a hill after passing out and flipping backwards off the rail.

“Fortunately I was uninjured,” Sanders says. “But it did give me a scare.”

 

Another adventure came when Sanders walked through an abandoned railroad tunnel on the North Bend Rail-Trail between Clarksburg and Parkersburg, W.Va.

 

“I walked through water over my shoe tops for miles until I reached the west end where the water had turned to ice,” Sanders says. “I tried unsuccessfully to walk on the ice, so I crawled on my belly until I reached the end and called Dotty to bring me dry clothes.”

black dachshund, Jingle Bell.

“Though it sounds like a paradox, during my walk I realized how small we really are in the context of our world’s mammoth size so we should not take ourselves and our situations so seriously,” Sanders reflects. “Yet I also realized how important we are to one another as people, one by one, would talk to me during my walk and lift my spirits and I theirs.”

Once home, Sanders will resume his 90-hour-a-week work routine. In addition to serving a church and the children’s home, he works as a life coach, helping people realize their personal goals; a partner and Christian counselor at two private counseling and diagnostic centers; and co-owner of Materials and Media Innovations, a technical writing and publishing business that serves 610 agencies in 48 states.

For more information about Sanders, visit the Web site: www.anchorlifecoaching.com or e-mail: anchorlifecoaching@msn.com. For information about SIGNALS, call (859) 873-4481, visit the Web site: www.fightdrugabuse.com or e-mail: ships@kyumh.org

 

*Stahl is a freelance journalist and editor in Nashville, Tenn.



Suggested Articles
Father, son to bike 10,000 miles for mission
Woman's 600-mile walk raises money to fight rare disease
Suggested Resources
Kentucky United Methodist Homes for Children
Dewey Sanders Walk Updates

Ask Now

This will not reach a local church, district or conference office. InfoServ* staff will answer your question, or direct it to someone who can provide information and/or resources.

First Name:*
Last Name:*
Email:*
ZIP/Postal Code:*
Question:*

*InfoServ ( about ) is a service of United Methodist Communications located in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. 1-800-251-8140

Not receiving a reply?
Your Spam Blocker might not recognize our email address. Add this address to your list of approved senders.

Would you like to ask any questions about this story?ASK US NOW


Contact Us

This will not reach a local church, district or conference office. InfoServ* staff will answer your question, or direct it to someone who can provide information and/or resources.

Phone
(optional)

*InfoServ ( about ) is a ministry of United Methodist Communications located in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. 1-800-251-8140

Not receiving a reply?
Your Spam Blocker might not recognize our email address. Add InfoServ@umcom.org to your list of approved senders.