Stevie Fugate never had the chance to hike the Appalachian Trail. But his father -- Steve -- completed the trek, and then some, for the son he lost to suicide and for those considering taking their own lives.
The grieving dad learned while hiking the 2,000-mile Appalachian Train in 1999 that his son had committed suicide, HLNTV reports. Fugate eventually finished the trek and decided to keep walking -- with just a backpack and a simple sign that read "love life" -- to inspire others to do the same.
Fugate completed his sixth walk and his 30,000th mile in Oakland, Calif., over the weekend.
“My walking isn't as easy as it was 12 years ago when I started at age 53," Fugate wrote on his site TrailTherapy.org. "I stay determined to spread the suggestion, 'LOVE LIFE' as a mindset that can most definitely enable us ALL to get past ALL adversity in our lives."
Fugate, now 65, says that his age is keeping him from continuing to walk across the country, but he never let tragedy stand in his way. The Florida man received another devastating blow in 2005 when his daughter died of an accidental overdose, HLNTV reports.
"I do it for my babies," Fugate told the news outlet. "They wanted me to have joy in my life. For me to not love life and find joy in it is to not respect their memories."
But Fugate isn't just enriching the memories of his children.
Along the way, he has comforted people affected by suicide and has inspired some considering taking their lives, to continue carrying on.
"There have been many that said they were going to take their life or were contemplating it," Fugate told KTVU, "and they decided not to."
To help continue Fugate’s mission, consider donating to Fugate's organization, TrailTherapy.org.
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