PARIS — The usual remark Steve Young hears when walking travel-strained into a new town references his hat.

“It’s like Indiana Jones.”

Another, and one more important in his view, is what people say upon learning Young’s walking the county for a good cause.

“You’re like Forest Gump.”

Young arrived in Paris on Friday with an 80-pound backpack and the hopes of a North Carolina youth camp carried on his back. Wearing brown leather boots and that iconic hat, Young is walking across the country to raise money and awareness for Victory Junction, an activities camp for terminally ill kids.

The cause combines young’s love of NASCAR with memories of helping a disabled friend growing up.

Started in the memory of Adam Petty, who died during a NASCAR training run, Victory Junction unites Young’s devotion to racing he grew up shoulder-to-shoulder with his father and brother repairing stock car engines with a chance to commit selfless acts.

“When you see a child dealing with things, sometimes people turn away. But I like to work with them,” Young said.

Now living in southern Virginia, he started walking north on April 15 with a gut instinct this would be his last sojourn. At 58, this trip is harder on him than when he first left his then-Florida home for the first time seven years ago. His joints ache. He’s had three sprained ankles, a stress fracture and has walked with a pinched nerve kept at bay with painkillers and grit.

“There are only two things I ask when I come to a new town; where can I put my tent, and how can I tell people about what I’m doing?” Young said.

A spirit of help follows Young, who relies upon the donations and charity of others to maintain his trip. He usually finds those people, whose only donation to the cause might be a ride down the street or lunch.

“I think they understand the passion. My stories are unique, I suppose, but it’s all about the camp,” he said.

The rundown of his journeys is immense: he’s walked 22,000 miles across 38 states — he predicts he’ll break 25,000 miles this trip, roughly the circumference of the world — visited 3,000 cities, prayed in 500 churches, survived blizzards, had oranges delivered to him in the Mohave desert and slept two separate nights among the dead when local officials told him he could only pitch his tent in the local graveyard.

This is his first trip to Maine, but third to a town call Paris.

“You know what we’re guilty of?” Young said. “Missing everything in between were we live and our vacation spots.”

The contents of his pack are sparse: three disposable cameras, dried meat, oatmeal and clothing; mostly clothing.

So much of Young’s life has been taken over by his journeys that he brims with tales, always approached with a hand raised and the caution, “This is the Reader’s Digest version of the story.”

Young estimates he’s spent half of the past seven years on the road, the other half at home in Virginia. It drives his daughter and ex-wife mad.

Asked about his life in Virgina, and he mentions that a friend fosters the tomato plants growing at his house, and confesses he’s okay knowing they’re never likely to win the best-of-show vegetable competition he still enters every year.

Chris Cushman, a clerk at the Paris town office, said of Young, “I think what he’s doing is amazing. I just feel good for what he’s doing.”

Young’s time in Maine is almost up; he can be found leaving the state along Route 117 on Monday.


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