Ron Kessler, of Fort Collins, stops in Covington, Ky., as part of his walk across America to raise breast cancer awareness. His pink wig and glasses represent the signature color of the cancer charity Susan G. Komen for the Cure, for which he is raising money. Kessler will arrive Thursday afternoon in Craig.

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Ron Kessler, of Fort Collins, stops in Covington, Ky., as part of his walk across America to raise breast cancer awareness. His pink wig and glasses represent the signature color of the cancer charity Susan G. Komen for the Cure, for which he is raising money. Kessler will arrive Thursday afternoon in Craig.

Walk the walk, talk the talk

Colorado man on trip across country for cancer awareness

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Arriving in Steamboat Springs on Monday afternoon, Ron Kessler, feeling "tired and dehydrated," took a break from his trip.

However, he is on the move once again.

Kessler, 39, of Fort Collins, has spent the past several months walking across the country to raise awareness for breast cancer. Setting off from Cape Henlopen, Del., on March 1, he has since walked more than 2,400 miles, following the American Discovery Trail.

Although he has bicycled across America twice and hiked the Appalachian Trail - running from Georgia to Massachusetts - on multiple occasions, this is Kessler's first journey across America completely on foot.

He was inspired by a friend - whose name he preferred not to reveal - who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004.

"It was the first time I ever had somebody close to me be affected by the disease," Kessler said.

The friend received a further diagnosis last year, when she learned that the cancer had spread to her lungs and bones. Kessler said she originally was given a month to live by her doctors, but she still is alive, with a strong will to live.

"Seeing her and other cancer patients motivated me to do something," Kessler said. "What I'm doing is nothing compared to what she's going through. I might have a blister or something on the road, but she's the tough one between us."

As part of his walking tour, Kessler has set up donations for cancer charity Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Since starting the walk, he has raised more than $7,000 through the Web site www.firstgiving.com/roadtothecure.

"I haven't raised as much as I'd hoped yet," he said. "Of course, I'd like to make something like a million."

Kessler has received support from corporate sponsors such as numerous pairs of athletic shoes provided by New Balance and trekking poles from LEKI.

Kessler said his favorite part of the trip has been the people he has met along the way. Barbara Overbey, of Opdyke, Ill., met Kessler in April.

"It was unusual that we met him when we did," she said. "My family was going through a hard time because my daughter thought she might have cancer. It was like a blessing meeting him, because it was right after that that her tests came back negative."

Overbey helped him find lodgings in the area while he was there and has since made reservations at hotels along his route whenever she can find the time. She and her family intend to meet with him again once he reaches his final destination, Point Reyes, Calif., on the tentative date of Sept. 27.

"I think his cause is remarkable," she said. "We want to be there to see him cross the finish line, and cheer him on."

Kessler will continue to Hayden today and will reach Craig on Thursday afternoon, where he will pick up a new pair of shoes at the post office before heading out Friday.

Andy Bockelman can be reached at 875-1796 or abockelman@craigdailypress.com

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