This summer marks the fifth year of a "travelthropic adventure" for Milwaukee's Loyal Mehnert who will return to Camino de Santiago, Spain – where he organized a Hike for Habitat in 2010 – to embark on a Hike for Hope.
Hike for Hope is a 1,200-mile hike spanning four countries – France, Spain, England, and Scotland – that's also a fundraiser for the Catalyst Foundation, an organization that helps abandoned and neglected children in Vietnam, many of whom are sex workers.
"I want to mix my love for adventure and travel with a burning desire to help those in need," says Mehnert.
The Hike for Hope is open to anyone up for the adventure, able to pay their own expenses and willing to raise money. One-hundred percent of all money raised goes directly to the Catalyst Foundation, and the goal is to raise $20,000 by the end of the summer.
"That $20,000 translates to a year of schooling, food and safety for 80 children," says Mehnert. "The children are currently living in some of the poorest communities in Vietnam. Many of the girls have been rescued from sex trafficking. For just $250 per child, we'll be providing them with a chance at a normal childhood."
So, what kind of shoes does Mehnert wear for a 1,200-mile hike?
"One of the many sponsors of the Hike for Hope is Vasque Footwear; I'm hiking in a pair of Velocity 2.0 GTX," he says.
Anita Reed plans to attend the hike. Reed, a local artist, wife and the mother of three daughters, had a near-death experience last July 3 when she was struck by a motorcycle while riding her bike home from the fireworks. She made a miraculous recovery, but now lives with a brain injury.
"I have had to start at the beginning: walking, talking and living. I really understand how important life is and just how short it is, too," says Reed. "It has taken me eight months to be able to really move, communicate and feel alive, like the person I remember with a drive for adventure. I am now ready to give back."
On May 29, 2012, Reed will fly to Spain to walk the first 100 miles of the Hike for Hope.
"Life is full of surprises," says Reed. "I am so excited to have another chance to live and make a difference."
Hike for Hope participants walk about 15-20 miles per day. They sleep in hostels and camp along the way.
Mehnert started his career serving as the National Field Media Spokesperson for the Avon Foundation's "Speak Out Against Domestic Violence" awareness campaign. He joined Habitat for Humanity in 2007 and traveled the entire country, encouraging people, especially teenagers and young adults, to donate their time, goods and services to Habitat for Humanity and other charities.
One year later he created "The Everyday Journeyman," an initiative using travelanthropy (travel and philanthropy) as a fundraising tool for non-profit organizations across the globe which in turn has raised thousands of dollars for charity.
In 2009, Mehnert was named a People Magazine/Major League Baseball "All-Stars Among Us," which included recognition from the five living U.S. Presidents. In 2010, PETA crowned Mehnert their "Sexiest Vegetarian" for his work as a community leader. He was also featured in Outside Magazine as a "Chief Inspiration Officer."
In 2011, Mehnert was recognized as one of the Top 20 "Young Nonprofit Leaders in America" by the CLASSY Awards, which honor the top philanthropic achievements of the year.
Mehnert has traveled to nearly 30 countries across five continents, sharing his love of adventure, volunteering and giving back. In August of 2011, he was in Haiti building homes for families affected by last year's earthquake. In November, he cycled and volunteered across Vietnam's central highlands.
Mehnert has a few plans for 2013, including a charity hike in Haiti and road rallies in South America, Pakistan and Mongolia.
For now, Mehnert is focusing on the Hike for Hope and is thrilled that Reed, his long-time friend, will kick-off the journey with him.
"I've known Anita for many years and I couldn't be more excited or prouder to have her on the Hike for Hope, especially considering how difficult the past year has been for her. She's a constant inspiration and proof that with determination you can overcome anything. It's going to be an incredible summer," he says.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.