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Monday, May 2, 2016

Just passing through ...

Monday, May 17, 2010

Dan Lyons is pictured while walking through Cherokee on Wednesday. Lyons is currently on a cross-country walk. He is walking across the country to raise money and awareness for "Locks of Love" in honor of his daughter who lost her battle with breast cancer several years ago. Photo by Mike Leckband
What does Cherokee have in common with towns like Billings, Mont., Sioux Falls, S.D. and Olympia, Wash.?

Dan Lyons has visited all those towns while on a walk across the United States. Lyons is walking across the country raising money and awareness for "Locks of Love," a nonprofit organization that provides hairpieces to sick children with long-term medical hair loss.

Lyons passed through Cherokee on Wednesday on his way to Storm Lake. He began his walk Feb. 3 in Olympia, Wash and plans to travel by foot to West Palm Beach, Fla. So far he has completed 1,300 miles of the 3,000-mile trip and in the last three months has gone through four pairs of shoes.

"The walk seems to inspire people," said Lyons, a retired teacher from Antioch, Calif. "It lets them know they're not out there by themselves. Supporting Locks of Love does so much to boost the morale of those children."

In 1998, Lyons lost his daughter, 17 year-old Tammy, to breast cancer. "My youngest daughter passed away from cancer and lost her hair," Lyons said. When his daughter was going through chemo and radiation she had a hairpiece given to her from Locks of Love and he said it was a real morale booster for her.

He wants to be able to do that for other girls.

Lyons said he's raised more than $100,000 for various organizations so far.

He stated that since his daughter passed away, he's been active in supporting cancer-fighting efforts, including participating in 10 Relay for Life events, and that the cross-country adventure, it just sounded like the right thing to do.

"I made a promise to Tammy that I would do whatever I could," he said.

He's been on his own the entire trip with just a 25-pound backpack. At night, he either camps, stays at a hotel, or gets set up with a host family in whatever town he's passing through.

Lyons spreads the word about Locks of Love along the way and encourages people to donate, but isn't collecting money or taking donations himself. Instead, he tries to show them little ways they can help, like donating hair care products for the hairpieces to the organization.

All Lyons takes with him is a pack with the essentials - a change of clothes, tent, sleeping bag and of course, an umbrella large enough to cover both himself and his gear.

He only sets up camp where he's allowed, meaning his walks can last up to 27 hours before he can find a place to stop.

"You end up in areas where there is no place, no motels, no place to camp, so I won't sleep on another person's property unless I get permission," Lyons said. "Sometimes I'll be walking all day and night long until I get a place to rest."

"It's really a daunting experience," Lyons said. "Between the drunk drivers trying to hit you, stepping over dead animals on the road and the weather - you wonder where you are going to get water the next day ... but it's so worth it."

Does Lyons have what it takes to complete his journey? The short answer is yes! This is not the first time he has walked across the country, matter of fact, it's his fifth time. Prior to the loss of his daughter, Lyons lost his father to Alzheimer's and in 2000 he also lost his wife to a drunk driver.

So in 2001, he retired from teaching and hit the road to bring awareness and hope to people who have been in his shoes. Each of his coast-to-coast walks has represented a different organization, including the Alzheimer's Association, American Cancer Society, and this year's Locks of Love.

How does one eat while on the road?

"I pick up my food in whatever town I go through," Lyons said. "I try to travel as light as possible. My first walk I carried 65 pounds, but that was with everything, including a stove. But now I'm 10 years older now and can't carry that kind of weight."

Lyons claims that he averages about 20 miles a day and walks about two miles an hour or about 2,195 steps a mile.

Lyons also stated, "I'm not rich - I cannot give a lot of money, but I can give my time and my efforts."

After spending Wednesday night in Cherokee with a host family, he was spotted on Hwy. 3 on Thursday morning heading towards Storm Lake.

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