Walking across U.S. for diabetes awareness by Gregory R. Norfleet · News · March 15, 2013
Sterling Cleveland’s job title invokes pictures of tailored suits, elegant hotel lobbies, perfect posture, wealth and perhaps a little bit of stuffiness: concierge. But when he passed through West Branch on Friday, the 32-year-old dressed in layers like an outdoorsman, topped with a shiny bright-green coat, donning a fuzzy-lined ear-flap hat while carrying a hefty backpack and walking with the help of ski poles.
And this visitor was not about to hail a cab. He was walking … from New York to Los Angeles.
It was his outfit that caught the eye of the McDonald’s diner who called the West Branch Times Friday morning, but Cleveland wants to turn our attention to diabetes, raising awareness of this largely preventable disease that claimed his grandmother, Josephine Dixon, a decade ago. He was 21 at the time.
“I became pretty knowledgable about diabetes and I’m learning more,” he said. “I want to teach people about Type I and Type II.”
And, yes, he would like to raise money, too, about $20,000 -- $10,000 during his walk and $10,000 after. However he thinks the cost of walking for seven or eight months across the country, even though he frequently crashes at people’s houses, will probably use up all that first $10,000 and more.
Cleveland is getting a bit of help with the awareness campaign. He appeared on TV once and had been interviewed by four or five newspapers before the West Branch Times caught up with him.
His wayward trip started Nov. 28 in New York before taking him through New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana (where he began following the American Discovery Trail) and Illinois before reaching Iowa. Averaging 25 miles or so a day, he expects to finish about June or July. He blogs with text, photos and video about his stops at SoilTrek.com, a Web site he created, but said the most interesting things about his journey are not the sights, but the time alone to think.
“I’ve become more introspective than anything else,” he said. “The way I view things is not as good or bad. I accept them and try to see the truth or what’s positive in them.”
He’s slept in a tent when it is 15 below, lost feeling in his fingers, crossed paths with a bear, been approached by dogs, been offered jobs and given donations for the American Diabetes Assoc. Through CouchSurfing.com he’s met many generous people.
“I like being around good people … and I’ve been taking notes on how to improve my life when I get back to New York,” he said.
Cleveland’s 10-year-old son, Sterling III, is staying with Sterling III’s mother, Tris-Ann Cornwall, during this journey across America. Cleveland phones him twice a day.
“He didn’t believe me at first,” Cleveland said about his son. “He thinks it’s awesome now.”
He left West Branch headed north on Downey, picking up the Hoover Trail on his way to Cedar Rapids.
Follow Sterling Cleveland’s progress at SoilTrek.com, where you can also find a link to donate to the American Diabetes Assoc.