Students hike the Appalachian Trail in "Miles for Moms"

Students hike the Appalachian Trail in "Miles for Moms"

The Eliminate Project seeks to end maternal and neonatal tetanus, a disease that kills 49,000 infants and mothers every year. Photo courtesy of Michael Moore

Soon after graduation in May, Michael Moore will embark on a 700-mile journey along the Appalachian Trail, through national forests, and into Canada. His hike is about more than just a love for the outdoors, however. Moore, a senior majoring in biology and psychology, is trying to raise money for the Eliminate Project. 

The Eliminate Project, run by UNICEF and the Kiwanis International Foundation, seeks to end maternal and neonatal tetanus, a disease that kills 49,000 infants and mothers every year, especially in poverty-stricken areas. 

“I’ve wanted to do the Appalachian Trail since, I’d say, senior year of high school,” Moore said. “Last year I went to something called international convention for Circle K, and I enjoyed being able to interact with people from all over the country who are involved with the same things that I am. I thought why not make my passion for hiking into something that could benefit other people than just myself? So basically, I just fused my passion for hiking with my passion for Circle K and came up with Miles for Moms.”

Miles for Moms will begin in Waynesboro, Virginia, on May 9, and end on June 22 in Toronto. 

“Anybody can join – for the fundraising, organizational aspect, anyone period,” Moore said. “We have trainings every single weekend to get the body situated because we do have a time schedule that we need to be able to stick to, so if somebody comes in the last week, I don’t know if they would be able to join, but if someone joins now, then yeah, for sure.”

Moore already has a few people tagging along on various parts of his odyssey. Sheela Kailasam, another Circle K member and junior majoring in finance and math, will hike with Moore for the first two weeks before an internship. 

“Michael approached me one day and said, ‘hey I’m going on this 700 mile hike this summer in honor of Project Eliminate,' and I was like, ‘yeah as long as I don’t have anything else this summer, I’d love to.’ I like the cause,” Kailasam said. “I think it’s a great idea, and I like hiking.”

Others are joining him in Buffalo for the last leg of the journey. The fundraiser is being coordinated by UA Circle K, which Moore is a former president of and has been involved with since a freshman.

“I was just walking near Ridgecrest, and I saw a sign that said service, leadership and fellowship and I was just like, ‘hey why not,' " Moore said. "So I went in my first week on campus and met some really interesting people and just fell in love with the organization. I’ve been involved ever since."

The program will raise money with sponsorships per mile, much like Relay for Life, and with corporate sponsors. Circle K also hopes to raise money through avenues other than Miles for Moms.

“The [Eliminate Project] is budgeted for $110 million and we’re almost there at [$107 million], but we’re having some trouble getting that last $3 million, so that’s where we come in,” said Wes Goode, the vice president of Circle K. “Our big event is a 700-mile charity hike along the Appalachian Trail, but we’re also doing things on campus like crowdfunding, different events with SGA, the greek system. Kind of doing a little bit of everything. $3 million is not a small amount of money to raise.”

One such event is a glow run, which will take place on April 23 on the Riverwalk near the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater. Circle K hopes to partner with SGA and Project Health to raise as much money as possible.

“We’re kind of taking a similar approach to what Dance Marathon and Relay for Life do to get the campus involved, but we’re really trying to get the community involved as well,” Moore said. “We’re going to have inflatables for the kids. We’re working with Big Brothers Big Sisters and Tuscaloosa One Place to really get everybody involved in this project because it is so easily preventable.”

They also plan on selling T-shirts, which Kailasam is helping with. Overall, Moore hopes to raise around $100,000 from the fundraisers.

“That is our goal with this, but if we surpass that, we surpass that. If we undershoot it, we’re still impacting thousands and thousands of lives. So we’re raising as much money as possible, but my goal is $100,000,” Moore said. 

With India and China recently completely vaccinated, Moore and the Eliminate Project are confident that the disease will soon be eradicated. 

“I’m a pre-med; that’s why I love this," Moore said. "I love the outdoors, but it also appeals to the fact that I want to be a doctor and it’s so medically oriented."

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