Cihiwsky raises awareness for senior meals program through cross-country trek
Phil Cihiwsky is walking across the nation with a purpose: to call attention to seniors’ meal program and alleviating senior hunger.
“It’s something we should all care about,” he said. “Eventually, we all need someone to lean on.”
At 58, the Colorado retiree and avid weekend-walker began the seven-month trek March 4. He started in San Diego and plans to travel across the entire breadth of the U.S., ending his travels in York Harbor, Maine. After four months on the road, Cihiwsky arrived in Peabody Monday ready to meet local seniors and spread awareness for the Meals on Wheels program.
“Senior Centers are suffering right now with budget restraints,” he said. “The sequester cut almost $27,000 from area programming and its hurting seniors the most, especially the meals program.”
Julie Govert Walter, executive director of the North Central-Flint Hills Area Agency on the Agency, said she was glad Cihiwsky could stop at senior centers in Marion County, and share his stories. When Cihiwsky arrived in town, a reception and dinner was given in his honor.
Cihiwsky said the hard part of his adventure is over, having climbed all of the mountains in the West already. He said he has had a few minor challenges along the way, but the smiles on people’s welcoming faces have been a comfort to him.
“It’s the people that make this interesting, make it worthwhile,” he said. “I’ve noticed that the people in New Mexico and here in Kansas seemed to be the friendliest – so far. They wave when you go past. It has something to do with how you were born, how you were raised. It’s a mentality that you’re born with and it makes you feel extremely welcome.”
Cihiwsky said he pays attention to the signs of heat stroke, keeps hydrated, and wears nylon clothing to keep the sweat away from his skin. He said he started the trip with a full head of hair, but had to have a barber shave it off when he went through the desert. As a result, he said his head is cooler but he never leaves a rest stop without his wide-brimmed hat.
His jogging cart holds all of his necessities including at least three liters of water and his tent at all times. It is equipped with a rear view mirror for safety reasons.
“Sometimes there isn’t any shoulder on the right side of the road, so I have to go on the other side,” he said. “It’s a good thing to have, especially when you have car zooming from behind.”
Cihiwsky said he is grateful he could make the trip, but knows he could not even think about it without the generous support of his wife, Sharon, and their two adult daughters.
Cihiwsky said he is ahead of schedule, but still plans to end his trip in September, when his wife will meet him in Maine and they will travel by car back to their Colorado home.
Cihiwsky updates a journal regularly, as well as several social media sites. He can be found on Facebook. He also blogs at http://sites.google.com/site/wentwalking.