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Jordan Dibb was so moved by the devastation in Haiti that he contacted 30 relief organizations to volunteer his services on the ground. But none wanted a 23-year-old from Minneapolis with zero experience in natural disasters.
During his final call, the frustrated young man finally blurted out: "Then how am I going to get to Haiti?''
"You can always walk,'' was the reply.
And so he is.
On March 27, Dibb will leave Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis to begin an 1,800-mile journey to Miami. He's not sure whether he'll make it all the way to Haiti. But he is hoping to raise $100,000 for Action Against Hunger, an international relief agency that loved his extreme fundraising idea.
Until then, Dibb is building a network of supporters -- from more than 3,000 Facebook fans to civic organizations to friends and family members -- who will help house and feed him along the way. He's also raising money for both Haiti and his own personal cause -- fresh supplies of walking shoes along the way.
"This is one thing that I can actually contribute to the people of Haiti,'' said Dibb, a recent college graduate who has been unable to find work. "Every organization I called said, 'You can always donate money.' But I don't have money. That's the point!''
Action Against Hunger, which is based in New York and works in 40 countries, was thrilled to have another offbeat fundraiser.
"We had a guy roller-blade across the United States last summer and a woman climb Mount Everest last year, ''said Barbara McKinnon, external relations officer for the organization. "But Jordan is our first cross-country walker.''
Dibb is an "ordinary kid'' who grew up in Farmington. His dad, Steve, is an educator and his mother, Sharon, is a human resource specialist. In high school, Dibb participated in cross-country running and track and field.
Dibb majored in psychology and sociology at Hamline University. But after graduating last spring, he was dismayed he couldn't find a decent job. He moved to California for a while, then returned here.
Enter Haiti, a cause that lit up his soul. After being rejected by every organization he called, he made a plan he could own. Dibb began contacting relatives and friends, created an organization called "I Walk for Love'' (www.iwalkforlove.com), set up his Facebook, MySpace and Twitter pages -- and the movement got rolling.
This week he will meet with members of the Farmington Rotary Club and will speak at Farmington High School. Earlier this month, he met with the Lakeville Rotary Club. One club member worked for a hotel chain and may be able to get him a few nights of free or discounted hotel rooms, he said.
"It's all word of mouth,'' Dibb said. "I'm getting calls from people saying, 'I'm a friend of your friend. ... '''
One backpack, 100 days
At his apartment near Lake Harriet, Dibb pulled out a gray backpack that will carry his worldly possessions for 100 days. The plan is to bring a small sleeping bag, tent and "two of everything'' -- short-sleeved shirts, long-sleeved shirts, running shorts, running pants.
And he'll pack a supply of bandages and antibiotics for sore, swollen feet.
On his kitchen table lay the cross-country route Dibb will take. Plotting it was remarkably easy, he said. Dibb called up Google maps, typed in Minneapolis and Miami, clicked on the "Walk'' route -- and presto. He altered the route to include certain towns he wanted to pass through and to avoid certain areas that seemed too remote.
Dibb's itinerary includes overnight stops in towns ranging from Boaz, Wis., to Aptakisic, Ill., to Hortense, Ga. He expects to walk 23 miles a day, reaching Miami on July 4.
Although friends warned that the journey could be dangerous, Dibb said he will take precautions, such as contacting the sheriff's department in each county he's visiting.
Meanwhile, Dibb's parents have received free tickets to fly to Miami when their son gets there.
As for visiting Haiti, Dibb said he still doesn't know whether that will happen.
"Right now the goal is to raise $100,000 and get to Miami,'' Dibb said. "But if someone donates a ticket to Haiti, I'd love to see where those donations are going.''
Jean Hopfensperger • 612-673-4511