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'Why not?' California man walks across US to raise funds for Tulsa non-profit

Posted at 5:05 PM, May 16, 2024

TULSA, Okla. — A California man is traveling across the country on foot, raising funds for three non-profits close to his heart along the way.

Ranger Kielak walked into Oklahoma on May 10 and is just about halfway to the finish line.

He found inspiration in 2018, when a popular artist Mike Posner, completed a trek across the US on foot.

“I was following him on socials when he was doing it, and I was like, ‘man, that’s cool,’” said Kielak. “He’s posting about all these different people he’s meeting, and all these great stories, and the experience of it all."

Kielak wasn't sure if he'd be able to do it at first.

“It kind of quickly went from how inspiring and neat to ‘man, I wish I could do something like that, but that’s not really in the cards for people like me," he said. "Just kind of comparing myself to him, how he’s able to make it happen, how I can’t.”

Kielak dove into research and found many more ‘regular’ people who had completed a walk like the one he wanted to do. His confidence in the process slowly started to grow.

In one interview he watched, Posner said his father passed away from cancer a year before he embarked on his journey, which pushed the singer not to waste any more time.

Kielak related to the feeling of time slipping away, as his grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer's around the same time.

“He ended up passing in 2020,” said Kielak. “So for me, it was like, ‘Oh, this guy Mike Posner, you know, you can have all these accolades and all these different things, but we’re all just dudes. We’re all just people… why not do what you want to do?’”

That was the moment something clicked for him. Kielak decided he was serious about the walk in July 2022 and began training and mapping out the logistics.

Ranger Kielak's tentative route
This was the first draft. Kielak adjusted the route as he went.

But he’s not walking the country to site see.

“The mission for the walk is to highlight, learn from, and work with people in the U.S. who are making a difference in their community,” said Kielak.

The journey is not just a test of mental toughness nor an incredible goal he wants to achieve. Kielak is raising funds along the way for three non-profits that are close to his heart.

One of which is Hospice Promise, connected to Grace Hospice in Tulsa.

“Because they’re the ones that helped my Nana and Pap when he was passing from Alzheimer’s,” he said.

His grandmother, Rose Collins, said she was brought to tears by Kielak’s plan. She said it was more than raising money; it was that he's letting people know how they could be supported in life’s toughest moments.

“I think people need to know more about Grace,” said Collins. “Take the help, take the help right when they tell you, ‘We have all of this stuff available for you.’ Take it.”

Collins said it was difficult for her to admit she needed help, not only physically to care for her husband, but because of the mental and emotional toll it takes on a person.

Rachel Arnold, Executive Director of Grace Hospice, told 2 News they couldn’t be more excited for more awareness about what they do. She said so many people stray away from getting the hospice care they deserve because of negative connotations that come with the words.

“For him not only to be raising money for our foundation, but across his walk, telling the whole country not just about Grace Hospice, but hospice in general,” said Arnold. “It’s full care for you, and your loved ones, and your whole family, and whoever else might need that care that’s involved with you as the patient.”

Whatever Kielak raises will be split three ways. Some will go directly into Grace Hospice’s Promise Foundation funds to help patient families with expenses like rent, transportation, groceries, and last wishes.

The other two foundations he is walking in honor of are Future Farmers of America and Bigger than the Trail.

Kielak was involved in FFA and saw classmates who did not have the means to participate fully in the program. Bigger Than the Trail is a mental health organization that provides free counseling and therapy services to those who need them and cannot afford them.

His goal is to raise about $100,000. While he still has a ways to go, Kielak knows he can already make an impact with the money he’s collected.

“The goal doesn’t really matter, right, it’s like what they do with the money,” said Kielak. “We for sure can fund a grant for a kid that wants to do a project. We can, for sure, do at least half a year to a year of mental health support. We can help a family with maybe a couple months of rent, maybe food, maybe utilities, but the point is, that’s still taking a burden off of someone.”

By his calculations, Kielak said he expects to complete his cross country trek by the end of August or early September in California at Pismo Beach.

While he jokes that he’s learned over the last thousand miles that he doesn’t care for hiking or camping much, Kielak said it’s the people he’s met along the way that have made the journey so sweet.

“The work that I’m doing with my podcast, with the people that I talk with, that I interview, that I’m meeting, that, being able to spread those messages and help people, it’s definitely worth it. So, you know the goal is to make it to the other side alive, but there are plenty of other things I can do in the meantime.”

If you want to follow the journey, Kielak documents ‘The Walk’ on his Facebook page.

Kielak's website also offers ways for people to support him through the last thousand or more miles and the non-profits he is walking for.

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