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The Suburbanite
  • Jackson man will walk length of East Coast in hope that others will remember

  • Geoffrey Darling of Jackson Township, who from St. Patrick’s Day to Independence Day in 2013 will walk from Key West, Fla., to Fort Kent, Maine, stepped off on a 24-mile training walk at 9 a.m. Wednesday at Jackson’s North Park.

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  • A 2,400-mile walk along the East Coast next year began last week — far from the shore of the Atlantic Ocean.
    Geoffrey Darling of Jackson Township, who from St. Patrick’s Day to Independence Day in 2013 will walk from Key West, Fla., to Fort Kent, Maine, stepped off on a 24-mile training walk at 9 a.m. Wednesday at Jackson’s North Park.
    “I’ve got 24 miles to walk, and I’ve done two,” the upbeat Darling said as this journalist joined him for a couple of interview laps around the track.
    From 5 to 7 p.m. that day, Darling detoured to the nearby Jackson branch of Stark County District Library, where a launch party for the Feet of Memory walk included a preview of the dramatic performance he will give each night in communities along his walk’s route.
    Both the mileage of Darling’s training walk and the subject of his one-man play are significant.
    Darling will average walking 24 miles a day during the 110-day walk — 10 days are set aside for rest — along the coastal Route 1. Twenty-four also is the number of years the New Zealand native’s mother, Pat Darling, suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease, which is why Darling wants to raise funds for research toward finding a cure for the affliction.
    “The idea is to do the walk and then do the performance at the end of the day, and that will raise the funds for the Alzheimer’s Association,” said Darling, who noted that the Alzheimer’s Association has a hefty annual budget in its fight against the disease. “We’re about to put a dent into it.”
    Each night, the actor and journalist, who came to Ohio in 2006, will give a dramatic performance he wrote called “Tenacity,” which, according to a Feet of Memory brochure, is “a tribute to the patience of a woman suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease for 24 years, and who loved the ‘Lord of the Rings’ and all things faerie.”
    It is a play about his mother.
    “What comes out in the play is how she did not want to take the Alzheimer’s journey,” said Darling. “Yet she played the cards she was dealt.”
    Darling’s wife, Rose, will drive the support vehicle. And, as he walks, she will put on her own inspirational faith-based programs — “Lessons in a Lunchbox” — for retirement centers, dementia units, Alzheimer’s support groups, and adult day care centers in communities through which her husband’s walk passes.
    “Lessons in a Lunchbox,” based on the Old Testament story of Ruth, focuses on tactile items in an old-fashioned lunchbox.
    “Family pictures are included as the story is related in familiar traditional hymns, scripture and interactive discussions,” says the Feet of Memory website.
    Page 2 of 2 - The Darlings will begin his walk on March 17 in Key West.
    “We’re going to leave on my Mother’s birthday. My mother was born on St. Patrick’s Day,” said Darling. “And we’ll get to the top of Maine on the Fourth of July. I think that’s a good day for a celebration.”

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