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Thursday, June 01, 2023

Walker on trek for cancer awareness comes through Gainesville

He arrived in Gainesville on day 369 of his trek.

The journey started in Bellingham, Wash. He said it should end in Key West. With trekking poles in hand, he's walked. And walked.

He carries with him a 40-pound backpack and the memory of his mother.

Monday is day 375 of Matt Gregory's walking adventure for cancer awareness. His mother, Carolyn Gregory, gave birth to him prematurely when she had leukemia.

Melanoma took her life in 1999.

"My mom's life inspired me," Gregory said. "I needed something to really motivate myself."

Gregory, 28, is on his eighth pair of shoes. With more than 4,500 miles under his belt, he's met countless people. He's seen numerous cities.

"People in Florida seem to be more willing to bend over backwards to help me out," Gregory said.

He arrived in Gainesville on Sept. 4.

Gregory said he enjoyed taking pictures of the "French fries" on UF's campus, eating Satchel's pizza in a van and visiting Tim and Terry's music store.

The friends he made in Gainesville took him to the UF football game against Troy University.

Once out of Gainesville, Gregory will continue his trip to Key West. He expects to finish in October.

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"Right now I don't exactly know where I'll cut over to the coast," he said.

So far, he's raised about ,7,500 for the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, the center that helped treat his mother's cancer.

The total amount of donations is made up of small contributions he's received from strangers during the trip.

"The whole story in general is how hospitable people have been," Gregory said.

He's stayed with about 85 different households.

"You don't see your friends that you've had for a while," he said. "It's just nice to have a spot that's comfortable."

Others give him money for meals or hotel rooms. Gregory said he's amazed by strangers' generosity.

"The last person I knew on the trip was my grandma in California," he said.

Gregory started his trip Sept. 1, 2006, and began walking along the Pacific Coast. He would walk about 20 to 30 miles a day at first. Now he walks about 10 to 15 miles a day.

Gregory keeps a blog and photo scrapbook about his adventures that he updates in libraries and Internet cafes.

He plans to take these journal posts and turn them into a book.

"It's probably going to take me years to understand the trip fully," he said.

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