When Elliot London and Ronnie Kroell, co-founders of the Friend Movement set off on their journey Oct. 5, they were prepared. Fresh Nikes, a Starbucks in hand, they began walking. Five days later, they were in Elkhart, Ind.
"I have on two knee braces, Ronnie has a walking stick," London joked. It’s because they walked there, and they still have 821 miles to go.
London and Kroell are walking from Chicago to New York (921 miles) to raise money and awareness about bullying for National Bullying Prevention Month, placing a purple ribbon along each mile to honor a victim of bullying. They expect to reach their destination Nov. 10.
"It’s not a fad, it’s happening," Kroell said. "Anyone can be a victim of bullying."
London and Kroell are filmmakers, and they started the Friend Movement as a way to make projects with a positive social message. The walk is their latest project.
Since leaving Chicago on Oct. 5, London and Kroell have made multiple stops in Indiana including Gary, Portage, La Porte and Elkhart. After going through Ohio, they plan to head south through Pennsylvania, stopping at Penn State, continuing onto Princeton in New Jersey and into New York.
The walk is in response to the death of Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers University student who took his life three years ago after cyberbullying. London and Kroell wanted to do something more here years ago, but weren’t prepared at the time.
To honor Clementi, the walk will make its final stop at Rutgers, where Clementi's brother James will be speaking on behalf of the Friend Movement. London and Kroell will invite those at Rutgers to join them in walking their final miles over the George Washington Bridge, where Clementi took his life, to Hudson River Park for a candlelit vigil.
London and Kroell are walking an average of 27 to 33 miles per day, traveling with a production team of eight, including a film crew.
"It’s very important we are just the narrators of the journey," London said. "The whole goal is to meet people. We’ve found some incredible stories just five days in. People are coming to us and just opening up."
In Gary, the duo was approached by a family in a car interested in what they were doing. The family joined them to share the stories of friends they had lost to suicide over bullying and help place some ribbons along their path.
"It was such a powerful moment for both of us, it made it feel real," Kroell said. In Hobart, Ind., London and Kroell stopped at a small mother-and-daughter-owned Mexican restaurant.
"You see such a happy, incredible mother, and then you hear the heartbreaking story of her son being bullied on the school bus so badly that he wants to kill himself," Kroell said. "It’s so important to us to be able to bring stories to others."
"We live in a whole different day and age, people just need an ear to listen," London said. "I don’t think a lot of people have an outlet to talk to."
Those interested in being a part of the Friend Movement Walk can visit the campaign site. Those who send donations of $20 or more will receive a ribbon and a self-addressed envelope, allowing donors to dedicate a mile along the route to a victim of bullying.
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