Cross-country walker challenges others to cherish each day as a gift

BURKEVILLE, Va. (WRIC) — A Florida man is two states away from completing a cross-country trek on foot.

8News talked with 68-year old Steve Fugate as he made his way through central Virginia.

He carries above his head a sign that says “Love Life.” Fugate says he believes those two words have the power to change the world.

“I had no idea at the time that I was taking the two most important words in the universe and putting them together,” Fugate said.

‘Love Life’ is a call to action born from heartbreak. In 1999, Fugate was hiking along the Appalachian Trail when he received a phone call with news that his 26 year-old son had taken his own life. Fugate took his grief and turned it into a wake-up call.

“I don’t want any other parents to suffer this horror,” said Fugate. Since his son’s death, he has been spreading his message state by state that every day is a precious gift. Since then, he has walked the country eight times. When he completes his journey across America, he will have traveled more than 40,000 miles by foot in the last 16 years.

When drivers pass Fugate on the road, they are reminded to stop and smell the flowers.

“You’re just going about doing work, carrying on with your responsibilities,” said Lawrence Howard, who pulled off of the highway to talk to Fugate. “Sometimes you just forget about it — you forget what’s important.”

Howard and countless others have been impacted by Fugate’s simple message of valuing the gift of life, but Fugate said his journey has also been a source of his own healing.

“One day, I just realized — you go wow, this is nurturing me as well.”

With every smile, every wave, and every handshake along the way, Fugate’s message is a reminder that life is best lived when you live for the people around you.

Only the Carolinas stand in his way. He said he hopes to be back home in Florida by his 69th birthday in June.

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