SEARSMONT, Maine — Artist Matt Charros said he is well-acquainted with the therapeutic qualities of working with your hands.
So the Massachusetts native decided to start a studio where people suffering from debilitating diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and cancer, can find mental and physical relief through pottery, glass blowing and other art forms.
But first, Charros’ feet will have to carry him to that goal.
The 38-year-old was in midcoast Maine over the weekend, roughly two weeks into what he has dubbed his “walk of a lifetime” during which he plans to hike from coast to coast in order to raise money.
Charros, who has a lofty goal of raising $1 million, said about half of the proceeds will go to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society or similar MS-related organizations, while the rest will go toward his studio. Charros chose the Multiple Sclerosis Society because his sister Nicole Terceira was diagnosed with MS eight years ago.
On Saturday, Charros was in the Waldo County community of Searsmont, about 150 miles from West Quoddy Head Light where he began his trek on Easter Day. That’s roughly 4 percent of the estimated 3,700 miles Charros will have to cover between the coasts of Maine and Washington if he is to be successful.
Relaxing with a beer at a makeshift campsite in a church’s yard, Charros said he has been averaging about 15 miles a day so far but that he hopes eventually to cover 20 miles a day once his feet completely adjust. (He’s already on his second pair of shoes after having to ditch his hiking boots after some serious discomfort.)
“Everybody has been super-nice,” Charros said of the people he has met along the way. “You get the best reaction from people when you tell them what you’re doing.”
Statewide, about 3,500 walkers participated in the National Multiple Sclerosis Society Walk at 10 sites around Maine, Michelle Zichella, director of special events for the Maine MS Chapter, said Sunday.
In Brewer, more than 400 people turned out Saturday to participate.
“Every time someone turned in $1,000 worth of donations, we rang a cowbell, and in Brewer, it was ringing a lot,” Zichella said.
The Bangor area walk was held at the Brewer Auditorium. The walk in Camden was held at St. Thomas Episcopal Church, and the Ellsworth event took place at the Charles C. Knowlton School. The Caribou walk was held Sunday at Cary Medical Center.
Walks also were held in Augusta, Lewiston, Brunswick, Scarborough, Kennebunkport and Waterville.
Zichella said the goal was to raise $420,000 in Maine. She was confident Sunday that it would be achieved.
Exact figures on the number of walkers at each site and the amount of money raised in each location were not available Sunday.
Multiple sclerosis affects more than 400,000 people in the United States and 2.5 million worldwide.
Charros said he has wanted to walk from coast to coast ever since he was in high school. He spent several years working seasonally in the concessions industry at parks and resorts out West, including Yellowstone and Grand Canyon national parks. Before his current project, Charros’ longest hike was a round-trip walk from the rim of the Grand Canyon to the bottom and back in a single day.
Asked how he would convince people their donations will be used to benefit others, Charros said he has just set up a nonprofit organization, Elemental Earth Inc., that will be the starting point for his studio.
He also has created a Web site, www.walkofalifetime.org, and a “cause page” on Facebook.com that contains more information. Charros said he plans to update the pages as often as possible, although there was little information about his trip so far.
Charros isn’t making the trip alone. His dog, a 3-year-old mixed-breed border collie named Onyx, is walking alongside him. A family friend, Alex Crutchfield from Massachusetts, is driving a support car.
The group has a general route planned out but addresses the daily logistics, such as where to sleep and what to eat, as they come up.
Charros estimates the trip will take 185 days to complete.
BDN writer Judy Harrison in Brewer contributed to this report.