When Chad Schrack was about to set off to walk across the entire United States of America, Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh gave him a piece of advice.
It wasn’t too dissimilar to the “W.I.N.” mantra (What’s Important Now) Harbaugh shares with his players.
“One day at a time,” Harbaugh said. “It’s a long journey. Just enjoy the ride and take it one day at a time.”
Schrack is married to Harbaugh’s first cousin, Shiela. Harbaugh drove to Arlington National Cemetery to see Schrack off as he’s prepared to walk 22 miles per day for the next 130 days (about 2,800 miles) – all in the name of charity.
At age 38, Shiela was diagnosed with colon cancer. She is now cancer-free after four surgeries and a year of chemotherapy, and the Schrack family has been dedicated to raising awareness about the disease ever since.
A truck driver for FedEx, Schrack got the itch to walk across the country while listening to Lee Child’s “Jack Reacher” novels about a fictional Army veteran who roamed the United States. Seven years ago, he approached his boss with the idea that he wanted to walk the country when he turned 50 years old.
“He said, ‘If you’re crazy enough to do it, yeah, I’ll give you the time off,’” Schrack recalled. “I’m sure he thought at the time he figured I’d just forget about it or whatever.”
Six months later, Schrack’s boss was diagnosed with colon cancer. He died about a year later.
“Then I had to do it,” Schrack said.
As Schrack planned his walk, he also came up with another cause to champion.
Schrack was a squad leader in 2004 and 2005. After he returned from war, one of the soldiers on his squad committed suicide. According to the United States Department of Veteran Affairs, an estimated 22 veterans commit suicide every day. Thus, Schrack will walk 22 miles a day.
Schrack’s no stranger to pushing his physical limits in the name of charity.
In 2008, Schrack and his son did the Bataan Memorial Death March, which is a memorial march conducted in honor of the service members who defended the Philippine Islands during World War II. The marathon is done with a 50-pound pack strapped to your back.
In 2015, he and Shiela began participating in “Climb for a Cure,” a group of cancer survivors who climb mountains in Colorado to raise awareness and money. The family has raised more than $100,000.
Schrack’s cross-country trek, which will end in Venice Beach, Calif., is the toughest feat yet. It’s estimated that only a few dozen people have ever accomplished it.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Schrack was near the Shenandoah River in Virginia. He doesn’t have sleeping arrangements planned out ahead of time, relying on either a friendly stranger to take him in or his tent.
“There’s a little soreness, but nothing that makes me want to stop at all,” Schrack said.
According to the National Cancer Institute, colon cancer is the second-leading cancer-related killer in the United States. If it’s found in its early stages, however, it’s preventable and curable. Anyone over 50 years old, or who has colon cancer in their family history, should get screened.
“People don’t like to talk about colon cancer because it’s poop,” Schrack said. “I get it, but it still kills you. Just take care of it.”
Harbaugh and Ravens fans can follow Schrack’s journey on Twitter: @CancerStroll. Fans can donate to the cause here.