"Sometimes our inner light goes out, but it is blown again into flame by an encounter with another human being. Each of us owes the deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this inner light."
Barry Adkins' 18-year-old son, Kevin, died from alcohol poisoning. The high school senior had a party one night, got drunk, fell asleep and never woke up again. The story would have ended there if Barry allowed it to.
Determined to spread awareness about alcohol abuse, Barry determined he would walk 1,400 miles from his home in Gilbert, Arizona to Kalispell, Montana. Carrying Kevin's ashes and a message for other kids, he set out on February 24 -- just two day's before his son would have celebrated his 20th birthday.
Barry's message is simple: what happened to Kevin can happen to anyone; the dangers of binge drinking and alcohol abuse are very real. The ashes he carries are proof.
When asked by a local reporter why he chose to do what he's doing, Barry responded, "Think about how you would think about it in five years if you didn't do it. And when you think about it that way, an opportunity like this, to try and make an impact on some kids, will never pass this way again. It just won't."
Those words pounded in my heart. I knew I had to see Barry Adkins for myself.
With camera in hand, I set out with my two daughters to trace the part of Barry's scheduled walk nearest our home. After driving the route twice, and finding no trace of Barry, I began to ask myself why I was doing what I was doing.
Within moments, I was able to focus on the truth: One of my own family members makes frequent, potentially life-threatening decisions. A year or so ago, after doing all I could, I turned to others for help. Most found it easy to ignore me and pretend my family member no longer existed. I eventually learned to cope with their painful silence and move forward, without holding onto grudges. However, on my darkest days, I am tempted to feel there is absolutely no one who cares and that the world is an ever darkening place filled to overflowing with apathy.
Barry helped change that perception.
Someone who has suffered great loss, he -- unlike so many others in our day -- chose to overcome his greif and help others. Now, each day, he chooses to be a light in the darkness as he endeavors to touch the hearts of those whom he hopes to save from a fate similar to Kevin's.
I plan to follow Barry and Kevin on their way to Montana on a website named Kevin's Last Walk. When they arrive in Kalispell, Barry will take his son's ashes to a place where Kevin experienced some of the happiest moments of his childhood. Kevin's dream to return there will be fulfilled.
Though I never got the opportunity to meet Barry, his story has rekindled my desire to live life in a way that will allow me to be a light in the darkness. I don't yet know how my family members story will turn out but I know I will never give up. I will hold fast to the same hope Barry ends his every journal entry with: something very good will come of this.
To learn more about Barry and Kevin, visit: http://www.kevinslastwalk.org/