Photos of Troutman, his stoic, determined gaze, hiking pack slung over his shoulder, wearing a ballcap with “4 Peggy” embroidered on it, have trended all over America. And for good reason. According to a study by the Population Reference Bureau (PRB) 15 percent of Americans, 85 and older, are living in long-term care facilities and seven percent are living in some kind of community housing.
But not Dean Troutman. He decided to walk 700 miles, which in terms of distance, is over a quarter of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and about a quarter of the Self-Transcendence, New York, the world’s longest certified footrace.
With no sponsor endorsements on his clothing, no aid stations and no event hype, Troutman walked for something as simple as a children’s playground. He hit the road like a walking version of Forrest Gump on April 21, 2015 and finished his walkabout July 5, 2015, completing his 700-mile journey around Illinois.
His walking journey was to help raise money to build a playground in the park he had built in his hometown of Princeville, Illinois to memorialize his late wife Dorothy “Peggy” Troutman. Peggy had passed in July of 2010 from Parkinson’s disease at age 79. To honor his wife, he purchased 5.75 acres and established a park in her memory. They had been married for 61 years of the 63 years they had known each other.
The sleek grey stones with “Troutman Park” engraved above a photo of Peggy welcome community members of all ages to enjoy the picnic areas, football field and Little League ball field in the park. But Troutman realized something was missing, a children’s playground.
The park funds were depleted, but Troutman didn’t let that stop him. “We ran out of money to build a playground, so I started thinking if I could walk to my nephew’s house in Texas, maybe it’d bring enough attention to help raise some funds,” Troutman told ABC News in an interview.
Members of the park committee urged him to not walk to Texas, or anywhere for that matter. But even at 84 years young, he wouldn’t let the playground go unbuilt. Finally, community members Kelly Jenkins and Nate Rice came up with a solution. “We came up with a compromise and said rather than walking down to Texas, why don’t you just walk around Illinois and visit all the places you had memories with your wife,” they told ABC News.
With a hiking pack, a dog kennel filled with supplies — which he pushed along — and his “4 Peggy” hat snug on his brow, he was seen off on April 21, 2015 by 750 children from the community. Troutman walked 10 miles a day, sleeping at firehouses, churches and even sometimes outside. He visited friends along the route, and places where he and Peggy had gone on dates or visited a time or two — as well as the place where they were married.
His walking journey raised over $70,000 and the playground was built. Sitting on a park bench overlooking the new community playground he told ABC News via cellphone, “At one point we counted 48 kids, and the children have been loving it. I know Peggy would’ve loved it, too.”
Even at 84 years old, Dean Troutman’s determination and health is phenomenal. You certainly don’t need to be 84 to benefit from walking, and there is definitely no need to walk 700 miles. But if you want to lower your risk for disease and enjoy a healthy, relaxing way to stay fit, then walking is your answer. The American Heart Association states that 30 minutes of walking per day can lower your risk for coronary heart disease, stroke, breast cancer, colon cancer, diabetes, obesity and hypertension. Take the Troutman challenge, but there is no need to walk around your state — maybe just start with your neighborhood!
—The Alternative Daily