Alexandria Amadoro, 9, Hamburg, starts an Appalachian Trail thru hike on March 20 to raise $3.1 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
“I’m very excited about helping St. Jude and being able to hike the Appalachian Trail with my Dad.”
Family, friends and supporters were encouraged to attend a send-off event at Cabela’s in Hamburg on March 17. Alexandria and her father Eddie set off driving south to Georgia to hike the 8.8-mile approach trail to the AT at Springer Mountain. Their goal is to reach Mount Katahdin in Maine by September or the latest October.
“All of the people that I’ve met so far have been so amazing to us,” she said. “We have raised $8,024. I’m just really happy that we’ve raised so much that when we get on the trail we already have a start.”
Originally, Alexandria wanted to do a walk-a-thon on the 3,100-mile Continental Divide Trail from Mexico to Canada. Raising $1,000 per mile had the potential to raise $3.1 million. Finding that trail not feasible, her parents suggested the AT, an estimated 2,200 miles. Alexandria decided to do an AT thru hike but did not want to change the fundraising goal.
“Millions is what they need. These kids have cancer.”
At age 4, her family received a letter from St. Jude. Alexandria asked why the child had no hair. When her parents explained what St. Jude does, she cried and offered her piggy bank. Since then, Alexandria has wanted to help the children of St. Jude.
For the past year, Alexandria and father have been training, hiking many of the local trails in all weather conditions. A recent hike to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary’s snow covered North Lookout trail brought tears to Alexandria’s eyes, overwhelmed by the beauty and being there in that moment.
“I think she’s grown as a person,” said her father. “She’s always been such a loving, caring person. It’s one of the things we’ve always talked about, being self-less and making a positive impact in the world. The change that I have seen in her is in maturity level, more responsibility… She really is learning at a very early age an appreciation for life in general.”
She created a T-shirt design with Matt Gresia of Canswer Sock Co. in New York, with T-shirt sales benefiting St. Jude 100 percent.
Alexandria also donated more than 10 inches of her hair to Wigs for Kids.
“I got it dyed red on the tips to honor the St. Jude logo.”
Their official outfitter is Cabela’s.
“It wasn’t about forcing the Cabela’s brand on her, it was making sure she has what she needs,” said Eddie. “They’re excited that she’s going to get outside because I think in today’s society kids are pulled away from the outside, from nature, from hiking because of cell phones and tablets.”
“We’ve just been very thankful that they’ve been able to help us,” said Alexandria, who is greeted with hugs by staff.
“The people here are very personable, loving, caring,” said Eddie. “What they’ve given us has made it so much easier for us to be able to do this. They took a lot of the financial burden off of us because 100 percent of all donations go to St. Jude so we’re funding this trip ourselves.”
Cabela’s will host a cook-out when she reaches Hamburg.
“She is one incredible little girl,” said Barbara Kilmer, special events coordinator. “The feat that she is taking on is just incredible in itself but what she’s doing it for speaks volumes about what this little girl is. She thinks more of other children than herself is pretty incredible… We’re just extremely proud to be a part of her journey.”
Also, they received cooking pots from Vargo, hiking boots from Keen, food from Lotus Foods, gear from ALPS Mountaineering and Smelly Proof bags so animals cannot smell their food.
“It’s been really wonderful, the outpouring of love,” said Eddie.
Alexandria will carry about 12 to 15 pounds while Eddie will carry 40 pounds. Their pack weights will decrease once they no longer need winter gear further north.
One of the big questions is about school. Her mother Amy is a fourth grade teacher so Alexandria has been home schooled since July to put in her 180 days before the hike. But Eddie says her education will continue on the trail, including field trips to historical sites.
Eddie said there will be no pressure on Alexandria to hike specific miles (estimating 8- to 15-mile days) and he will watch weather forecasts. There will be planned days off the trail for rest and to enjoy the local sites.
“One of the things I’m excited for her to learn on the trail is something we take for granted. If we want a drink, we turn on the faucet,” said Eddie. “She’s going to have to get her own water, filter it. She’s only going to be able to carry what she needs. She’s not going to have a room full of toys or a tablet. It’s going to give her a different perspective of life which will enhance her growth. It should be an incredibly amazing journey for her.”
“I hope that we can raise a lot of money for St. Jude,” said Alexandria. “I hope that we can hit my goal of $3.1 million but if we can’t, anything that we do raise is just amazing that I can help them.”
St. Jude set up a fundraising page, so donations can be made directly through the hospital.
Hikers are also encouraged to join Alexandria on the trail, for however long they wish.
“We want people to come out and be part of the journey. It’s not just about giving money, it’s about the journey itself, being selfless and helping others,” said Eddie.
Follow Alexandria on her YouTube Channel GoAlexandriaGo and on Instagram and Facebook, also under GoAlexandriaGo. Visit https://goalexandriago.org/.