On Jan. 29, Louis Figueroa will embark on a 10-month, 7,500-mile walk from Tucson to New York and back to raise money and awareness in the fight against child abuse. Figueroa is a former world-class marathoner who was diagnosed with cancer in 1998. At 15 years old, he was the top-ranked marathoner for his age group in the country. Figueroa made his first cross-country run in 1982, as a high school sophomore, to fulfill a promise to a cancer patient. He ran 3,500 miles. In 1997, Figueroa walked 3,800 miles for AIDS. His latest walk will benefit two organizations: Protect and Justice for Children. Protect is a nonpartisan lobby working to change the laws to help protect children from abuse; Justice for Children is a nonprofit that provides legal advocacy for abused children. For more info, visit 7500milesforchildren.org/7500/.

Tell me about the specifics of the walk.

I start and end in Tucson. It's 7,500 miles. (I walk) 31 miles each day; it takes me eight hours. I get up; walk a few miles; have lunch; get my legs massaged; and then walk another four hours. Thirty-one miles is a day's work. That's the mindset I have. This is my job for the next 10 months.

Why do this?

I do a walk like this, because I can't sing or dance, to quote Rocky. Adrian asks Rocky, "Why do you fight?" And he says, "Because I can't sing or dance." I can't get everybody together like Quincy Jones did with "We Are the World." I can't make a record. ... But I feel that one of the secrets to life is to find out your gift and how you can use that gift to better this junkyard of a planet so that when you leave it, it's a little better than what it was.

How do you describe your gift?

My feet go long distances, and they hold up. That's my gift. I can't sing or dance, but my feet go long distances. People pay attention to the long walks.

Tell me about your route.

I originally wanted a circle. I wanted to call it "Break the Chains." However, "Break the Chains" was already an Internet domain. Now we have an oval. It's a rip-off of the broken circle that Navajo pottery artists used to put on their pieces. The broken circle signified the idea that even though that particular piece of pottery was finished, the work continues. So I start in Tucson and finish 7,499 miles. I am going to stop one mile from where I started walking. When I get back to Tucson, I want to see thousands of people there to finish the final mile. Even though my walk is done, our work as a society to protect children continues. So that's the idea. That's why it's a (broken) oval.

What do you hope to accomplish with this walk?

One of the things I hope to accomplish is for people to get past the warm-and-fuzzy rhetoric when it comes to protecting children. ... It seems that politicians have this no-compete clause, this quiet arrangement, that you don't challenge me on the issue of children, and I won't challenge you. So all a politician has to do is say children are our future. ... What happens is you end up with something like this: In 34 states in this country, a father--and I use that term loosely--can screw his own daughter and get probation. But in all 50 states, if you get a DUI, you have to serve at least one day in jail. But in 34 states, the father doesn't have to do that one day; he is eligible for probation. The reason this stuff exists is because there's that old adage, "Children don't vote"; politicians aren't afraid of children. But you know what? Clean air doesn't vote; whales don't vote; guns don't vote, but they all have these powerful lobbies. So the problem isn't that children don't vote; the problem is that adults don't vote for the children. And that's never going to change until we get past the warm-and-fuzzy rhetoric, and people start putting money where their mouth is. That's why Protect is so important.

Tell me more about Protect.

Protect is the first nonpartisan lobby in the country. It works to help change the laws to help protect children. So for $35 a year, people can join this lobby and work to start changing the laws. It's not a tax write-off. It's a political action committee. So they have to believe in it.

What other goals do you have for this walk?

My main goal is for people to get past the warm-and-fuzzy rhetoric. And I want people to join Protect and send money to the other organization called Justice for Children. ... Come out to Casa de los Niños on Jan. 29. Take a stroll down to Speedway and walk the first mile.

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