Killeen resident Chanelle Mendoza is preparing to walk 1,047 miles to honor those who are battling cancer, a cause near and dear to her heart.
On Oct. 29, Mendoza, 28, will take off on foot from Texarkana and head to Mooresville, N.C., to raise money for her father’s rising medical bills and the nonprofit Pink Heals organization.
Her father, Carey Pierce, has suffered from prostate cancer for more than a decade.
“My dad has this saying: ‘Believe in yourself, trust in yourself and have faith in yourself,’” Mendoza said. “So this is something I can do to make him proud and raise money for other people as well.”
Pierce moved to Mooresville last year with their family when his health started to decline. He is unaware of his daughter’s plans.
“He just thinks that we’re coming home for Thanksgiving, so he’s really going to be surprised,” Mendoza said.
Her sister, Nicole Pierce, will accompany Mendoza, carrying food and medical supplies and rendering first aid if needed.
Nicole Pierce, who admitted the news of their father’s illness dealt a large blow to the family, said she admires Mendoza’s courage and is honored to be part of it all.
“Years ago I was thinking there was nothing I could do, and now here’s Chanelle saying there is something I can do not only for my family but also for my community,” she said. “That’s the attitude of trailblazers: people who say that one person can make a difference.”
To prepare for the walk, Mendoza is relying only on Xbox fitness programs, focusing on core exercises, yoga and cross training, and daily 4- to 9-mile walks. She also limits her diet to 2,000 calories per day.
Since she began training six weeks ago, Mendoza has lost more than 20 pounds and is in the best shape and health of her life, she said.
So far her efforts have raised $300, which is a long way from her $5,000 goal. She also needs donations to help with supplies, lodging and gear.
But Mendoza said she is less motivated by the money. Paying tribute to cancer victims, especially her father, is her motivation.
“It’s not one of those things where I have to have this money in order to do it. I’m going to do it regardless because it’s for a more personal reason,” she said. “This is for me and for my dad, but it’s also to raise awareness.”
Mendoza hopes to draw attention to all forms of cancer. She said people tend to focus on breast cancer and disregard the others.
Using Google Maps, Mendoza chose a route that will take her from Texas to Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and finally North Carolina, with check points along the way for food and rest.
Her goal is to complete 30 to 60 miles each day in 24 days, walking from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Mendoza will document her journey through regular video blogs on YouTube, hoping it will generate more public support.
“I’m very nervous and I think it’s going to be a mental push, but my dad is that important to me,” she said.
To make a donation to Chanelle Mendoza’s walk or to become a sponsor, go to her donation page at www.gofundme.com/48r5z4.com.