For Jarad Schofer, a decent day walking across the country includes lots of road shoulder and the generosity of strangers.

And while he is smiling in all of the Instagram photos of the quirky and beautiful places he's passed through, the effort is hard.

Maybe not as hard as cancer that has touched lives of his friends and acquaintances that drove him on the fundraising journey. The constant walking is physically and emotionally grueling, nonetheless.

Schofer, 43, a 1995 graduate of Boyertown High School, began his 3,000-mile trek in Santa Monica, Calif., on March 14. He's walking about 6 million steps toward Virginia Beach, Va., on a planned route.

He won't pass through Pennsylvania. On Wednesday he left Oklahoma and stepped into Arkansas. 

Schofer teaches math at St. Alban's School in Washington. The school granted him a sabbatical for the spring semester.

After Schofer graduated from Boyertown, he attended the University of Pennsylvania. Then, he earned a doctorate in math from the University of Maryland and decided shortly after that to go into teaching. His family still lives in Berks County.

So far he has raised almost $23,000 for the Cancer Research Institute. He'd be thrilled to raise $10,000 more before the end. 

Schofer has never done anything like this but he's been thinking about it for a while, he said. Last year he participated in the Vol-State ultramarathon — 500K or 314 miles — which was some physical preparation for the arduous journey on foot. 

Before that, the death of a colleague and mentor Molly Woodroofe from pancreatic cancer in her 40s has weighed on Schofer's mind for years.

"She was an amazing person, a mentor, a coach," Schofer said, adding that the seed for the trek was planted at her memorial service.

Then, in early in 2020, Neil Peart, the drummer of his favorite band, Rush, passed away from brain cancer.

"He was considered one of the greatest drummers of all time, and now he's gone too soon," Schofer wrote on his fundraiser website. 

Moved by the losses, Schofer decided to make the trek. 

Schofer said on an active day he travels about 35 miles. His slowest was around 18 miles, and he has taken a few days off. He's on pair of shoes No. 4. 

"My feet feel fine," he said in an email. "I’m currently dealing with a muscle pull that’s really bothering me."

He pushes a stroller, nicknamed Neil, with his supplies for the journey. A week into the walk he wondered why he was doing it and thought maybe it was the dumbest thing to try, he said.

But Schofer pushed through and kept going. 

The challenge every day is dealing with changes in the weather and going long stretches without food or water.

Schofer said the journey can be isolating and he can't seem to eat enough calories not to lose weight. The possibility of things going wrong constantly nags at him, he said. 

But he's more than halfway home now — about 55 more days until Virginia Beach. He's buoyed by moments of kindness.

In Warner, Okla., this week, owners of a motel refused to let him pay for his room.

"That is one of the kindest gestures I've experienced on this whole trip," Schofer wrote on Instagram. "Now I’m sitting here amidst a tornado warning, so I’m not sure when I'll get on the road in the morning." 

Earlier, there was a man who brought him a McDonald's lunch as he walked through the bottom of a canyon. The man passed him in the morning and realized he would not reach a place to eat by the end of the day so as he returned through canyon he brought lunch to Schofer.

Schofer said he was surprised by how much his students continue to be engaged in his journey.

Also unexpected were responses from people with cancer who have written to him saying they've been inspired.

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