After 24 hours, 63.5 miles of walking for homeless

April 17, 1994|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Staff Writer

"Clear the inside lane for Reverend Wagner," the announcer blared. "He is jogging to the finish line."

Hundreds of Francis Scott Key High School students, briefly out of class to support the Rev. Bob Wagner in his marathon walk for the homeless, moved aside.

Many shouted, "Go, Rev!" and ran along with the minister.

"I would do it as long as I could, but I could never walk for 24 hours," said Jimmy Wright, 15, who runs sprints on the FSK track team.

Mr. Wagner, pastor of Emmanuel (Baust) Lutheran Church in Taneytown, trekked around the quarter-mile track nearly 250 times in an endurance trial that began at 9 a.m. Thursday. Every fourth lap added another mile to his final total: 63.5 miles.

He picked up the pace on his last lap Friday morning and finished with a vigorous jog.

"I have almost walked to Baltimore and back," Mr. Wagner, 33, said. "Now, all I want is a change of shoes, a shower and a nap."

Organizers were still counting pledges and donations when he finished, but expected to raise about $10,000 for the county's homeless.

Nearly $4,000 of that total came from FSK students who tossed a block party and dance on the track Thursday evening.

"Our school is like a big family," freshman Cassie Gilmore said. "This is a good cause."

The pastor, also an after-care case manager for Human Services Programs of Carroll County, staged his second annual walkathon to raise part of the $100,000 that HSP needs annually in donations to keep its three shelters open.

"We don't want homeless people to live on the streets," said Katie Wagner, 9, who walked the last mile at her father's side.

Mr. Wagner said the event raises community awareness.

"We need to build a partnership in caring for the homeless," he said. "Shelters are not our best option. We have to find the homeless affordable housing and help them create a new home."

After a day and night of exercise, the strain on the minister was obvious. Sweat streamed down his face and asthma that had dogged him from the outset of the walk made his breathing labored.

He could not have finished, he said, without "the tremendous outpouring of support, effort and energy. My actions out of faith and conviction are definitely felt by others."

He never walked alone, said his wife, Nancy. Friends and co-workers came at all hours of the night.

"We are supporting Bob because it is important to help those we live with," said Wayne Grauel, who had walked beside his neighbor since 4 a.m.

The students were a "great inspiration," Mrs. Wagner said. The school allowed students who had collected $20 in pledges to walk with Mr. Wagner throughout one class period. After a school track meet Thursday, the team joined him for several miles.

As Mr. Wagner began the last lap, the crowd roared, "Yeah! Bob!"

Hundreds poured onto the track.

"How could you have more energy than all the rest of us?" teacher Rose Mattavi asked. "He is faster than all of us."

"I can't slow down now or I might fall down," he said.

HSP is still collecting donations at P.O. Box 489, Westminster, Md. 21157.

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