TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY
By Jeff Noble / staff writer
Moments after Stacie Eichinger got to the West Knox Volunteer Fire and Rescue station on a warm Wednesday afternoon, priority one was to lose the shoes.
After starting out in Washington state on a cross-country walk to raise awareness and money for children with serious illnesses, she’s reached Corbin.
Eichinger’s goal is to reach Savannah, Ga., sometime in January, where the walk ends.
But for now, the shoes were gone. And for the next few minutes, she stretched her sock-covered feet on a chair while she chilled out on a sofa.
“I’ve been through seven pairs of shoes since I started walking. That’s one pair a month. Actually, I’m kind of irritated by the shoes I have now, because they cut through the back of my left heel,” said Eichinger, who was born and raised in Tucson, Ariz.
West Knox is one of several fire stations in Kentucky where she’s made stops along her trek through the Bluegrass State. She pointed out the reception she got at the station was a warm and wonderful one — just like the others in our state.
“The firefighters here in Kentucky have been outstanding. They have helped me out tremendously since I got into Kentucky. They’ve taken care of me to where I don’t have to do anything,” she stated.
Eichinger pointed out she has a zest for excitement, adventure, and for carrying “Beads of Courage” team beads across America and around the world.
According to the website walk4courage.com, the Beads of Courage organization provides innovative, arts-in-care supportive care programs for children coping with serious illnesses, as well as for their families and the health care providers who take care of them.
Eichinger’s walk began in Ocean Shores, Wash., back on May 8. Because she’s a member of Team Beads of Courage, she’s carrying team beads with her which people can buy to help with the cause.
Her goal is to raise $38,000, with every bead she’s carrying given to a child participating in the program.
As of Wednesday night, she’s raised $19,410 — more than half of her goal.
Coming through the Greater Cincinnati area, Eichinger entered northern Kentucky, and passed through Crittenden, Willliamstown, Georgetown, Lexington, Richmond, Berea and Mount Vernon before she ambled into the Tri-County region.
After spending the night with the family of West Knox VFD Chief Darryl Baker, she plans to rest Thursday in Corbin. Eichinger wants to take in some of the area’s sights, sounds, and landmarks such as Cumberland Falls, before she heads out to Johnson City, Tenn., on Friday.
There, she’ll visit children, parents and the staff of a local hospital involved in the Beads of Courage program. After passing through Middlesboro and Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, she hopes to be in the Tri-Cities region of Upper East Tennessee by this weekend, weather permitting.
In a couple of weeks, Eichinger anticipates a joyous Christmas celebration in the Asheville, N.C. area.
“My boyfriend’s flying into North Carolina for Christmas, and I’ll spend time with him. I’m excited,” she said.
Between this weekend, Christmastime and the ultimate goal of Savannah next month, Eichinger will work on what routes she’ll take for her trek down south, along with catching up on some TV shows and thinking about a favorite sandwich of her’s — a Prickly Pear Brisket Barbecue Sandwich, from the Dakota in her hometown of Tucson.
But rain, snow, or whatever the weather throws at her, it won’t take long for Eichinger to get it in gear, to help draw a bead on helping children in need.
“I’ve got good gear, I’ve got my red pants, my iPod, and my ‘Walk 4 Courage’ cart. I’m ready to go,” she noted before getting ready to grab a bite to eat.