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Walk and roll: Challenge to raise money to help children's organizations

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Gary Walters practices for his next big adventure by walking/rolling his giant hamster wheel along the trail next to Clearwater Road Thursday in Baxter. Kelly Humphrey/Brainerd Dispatch - Gallery and Video2 / 2

BAXTER—With a heat index of 88 degrees Thursday afternoon, Gary Walters walked, and thus rolled, along the trail next to Clearwater Road in Baxter.

The colorful metal wheel he took each step in turned steadily beneath the hot sun. The air temperature was 85 degrees at the airport, but reached the higher heat index when adding 55 percent humidity. Walters' gray T-shirt was already dark and drenched in sweat. He was looking forward to the forecast of cooler temperatures next week. In his short stint as a human hamster, Walters said the wheel brings with it a monotony of measured steps. And moving it around curves and corners is a bit like asking the person using the stair-stepper to get down and move the exercise machine just 5 feet every now and again during the workout.

"It's way, way harder than I ever expected," Walters said of the wheel walking. " ... It is more brutal than I ever expected. It's like a stair-stepper but you never get to be done."

Every 100 yards he has to get down and give the nearly 300-pound wheel a jiggle to keep it on the straight and narrow. But he's planning on spending 200 miles and the better part of two weeks in the wheel.

Walters, known for his challenges to raise money for children, plans to walk the wheel from Brainerd to Bemidji and back—200 miles. He hopes to be able to travel 20 miles a day in the wheel. Walters will begin his challenge Saturday leaving from the Northland Arboretum about 8 a.m. and returning Sept. 29.

Friends plan to help by keeping him company along the route.

He plans to do challenges over the next four years with 100 percent of profits shared by three organizations that benefit youths—Kids Against Hunger, Confidence Learning Center and the Brainerd Public School Foundation. Walters' previous challenges raised funds and focused on mentors for Kinship Partners. In fact, the inspiration for the wacky wheel came during the previous challenge of 30 things in 30 days that included 30 fair foods at the state fair. There a similar wheel was observed and the challenge was born.

When he first announced this year's challenge in July, Walters said he loved the idea of the organizations focused on children all working together with each gaining additional exposure and then taking turns each year to gain from the funds raised. It set aside any idea that could be out there of organizations fighting for the same dollar. Walters had 10 spots for sponsors, but 12 wanted to be on the wheel so he made room for two more.

Given the work to move the wheel and the daunting task ahead, Walters said he still wasn't thinking of turning back now. He's ready to walk and roll.

"No, you've got to do it. You've got to do it for the kids," Walters said.

Go to www.thatguyadventures.org for more information.

Past Walters' challenges

• 2003—Walters biked from New Orleans to Baxter with his brother Craig, covering 1,540 miles in 19 days.

• 2004—He lived nine days on a ledge of Brainerd's historic water tower on South Sixth Street for "Perching for Partners."

• 2005—Walters, with his children Jackson, Jessica and Reggie participating, walked the length of Minnesota covering 437 miles in 22.5 days.

• 2006—Walters swam across a rough Mille Lacs Lake with 3-foot waves. He covered 14 miles and raised about $20,000 in pledges. Walters swam on and off from about 6:30 p.m. Aug. 16 to 2:30 a.m. Aug. 17, spent a bumpy night on a pontoon and then continued to swim on and off between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. on Aug. 17 before reaching shore.

• 2007—Walters lost 100 pounds in a year, going from 290 pounds to 190 through diet and exercise.

• 2008—Walters and son Jackson unicycled for 24 hours around the track at Brainerd High School.

• 2009—Walters and Jackson traveled on inline skates from Brainerd to Washington D.C. as daughter Jessica traveled with them on her bike.

• 2010—Walters completed the Twin Cities Marathon in 6 hours and 32 minutes. He said he thought about quitting, but kept on because he wasn't doing it for himself but was doing it for Kinship Partners.

• 2011—Walters, along with Jackson and Jessica, completed the "Coast to Coast for Kids" challenge, riding 3,179 miles on bicycles on a 54-day trek covering the width of the nation between the East Coast and the West Coast.

• 2012—For his 10th challenge, Walters' goal was to raise funds and awareness for Kinship Partners and focus attention on being more healthy. He set up a trifecta of activities. The trifecta included working toward and keeping a healthy weight. He biked 200 miles during 15 hours covering the distance between Baxter and Bemidji and back again with his teenage daughter Jessica. And he completed the Twin Cities Marathon in October in 5 hours and 59 minutes, in time to qualify as a marathoner.

• 2013—Walters swam across Loch Ness in Scotland to prove once and for all if the fabled monster has any interest in a man from Minnesota clad in a wet suit. Nessie didn't. Walters said the Scottish people were great and he learned the benefit of making everything an adventure. The event raised $11,100 for Kinship Partners.

• 2014—Walters takes on Ironman triathlon in Tempe, Ariz. His day ended earlier than he hoped, but he signed up for the 2015 Ironman the next day.

• 2015—Walters takes on Ironman triathlon in Tempe, Ariz. At the end of more than a 16.5-hour day he hears, "Gary Walters, you are an Ironman."

• 2016—30 challenges in 30 days from bicycling 30 miles, to inline skating 30 miles to dressing up like a turtle for the Nisswa turtle races, to kayaking past 30 docks on Gull Lake, to packaging meal boxes for Kids Against Hunger, or trying 30 fair foods, this month of challenges offered many ways for people to join in events, be active and explore what the lakes area has to offer.

Source: Walters Wacky Adventures.

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