DIXON – Soon, Armand Young will get back to his life in Charles Town, W.Va., but first he has about 1,600 miles to walk.
It will take Young, an ambassador for a church in his hometown, about 11 months to walk those miles, he said. They'll be the final miles of what will be a nearly 7-year mission – about 9,000 miles – to make a difference and accept signatures as promises.
He calls that mission the Human Kindness Walk, and it earned him a nomination for the Rare Life Honor, an award given by Eagle Rare Bourbon. If he wins, he said, he'll donate the $40,000 to Jefferson County Community Ministries, where he works.
During the now 6 years he's been walking, Young has been on the road for 23 months, he said, taking a few breaks to return home to West Virginia.
"I got the idea to change the world," Young said, standing among the fire trucks at the Dixon City Fire Department on Thursday. "And God put it in my heart one day to try and make a change in our world. I had a $1 million job and a life and got rid of everything and decided one day I was going to walk across America to change the world. And it's been an awesome walk."
On Thursday, Young's milage was about 7,400, he said, and for each of those miles he's carried a staff, which is adorned with American flags, fire department shields and about 560,000 signatures.
The signatures he collects are promises from people to "commit an act of kindness in the next 24 hours in the name of a fallen soldier or honor that somebody died on 9/11," he said.
And with those promises, Young has been able to place 419 families into homes, he said, by going around whatever town he happens to be in to collect the first and last months' rent for someone in need.
The connection to Sept. 11 is why he has helmet shields on the staff, and why he was at both the Dixon City and Dixon Rural fire departments Thursday.
He's visited countless fire departments along his walk, and sometimes even stays the night at a fire house because he doesn't have enough money to pay for a hotel room. He spent Wednesday night in a hotel in Amboy, and was driven into Dixon to get warm clothes and to see the fire departments by Bickie Dickson, who's also at the hotel.
"I think it's awesome what he's doing," she said. "You don't see that too much anymore. ... You see like the Boston Marathons and stuff like that, but you don't see people walking like this much anymore. So that's why I thought I'd help him out."
In the next few days Young will make his way west, walking along the Lincoln Highway, carrying the staff with the signatures and flags and promises.
"The best part of my walk is, one child, 10 years down the road, simply because they're in a home, won't end up with a needle in his arm," Young said. "And maybe that same kid, because he has a home, 10 years down the road, because somebody cared about him with an act of kindness and kept him in a home, will be a firefighter and pull a needle out of a kid's arm."
Click here to vote for Armand Young for Eagle Rare's Rare Life Honor.
If he wins, Young said he'll donate the $40,000 prize to Jefferson County Community Ministries, where he works as an ambassador.