Following a shot from the West Virginia University Mountaineer mascot's musket, Barbour County coaches Nick Mayle and Marcus Johnson, along with WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck, started their journey Monday from Philippi toward the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, to raise funds for Barbour County's middle school sports programs.
Hundreds of parents, coaches, teachers and community members gathered to see the group off at the Barbour County Courthouse lawn at 8 a.m.
"(Walking) 170 miles is a long way," said Luck, who announced last week that he would walk the first three miles with Mayle and Johnson to show support for Barbour County sports. "I have gotten to know Nick and Marcus, and they will do fine on the journey. They each have a spring in their step and have great support from members of the county."
The Inter-Mountain photo by Beth Christian Broschart
Teachers, students, coaches, parents and community members gather early Monday morning with West Virginia University Athletic Director Oliver Luck and WVU Mountaineer mascot Jonathan Kimble, as Nick Mayle and Marcus Johnson begin their trek from Philippi to Canton, Ohio.
Jonathan Kimble, the WVU Mountainner mascot, said it was great to see all of the supporters that turned out to help get the group started on their way.
"I am honored to be a part of this," Kimble said. "Even though (Luck and Kimble) are only walking the first three miles, I want you to know our spirit will be with you every step of the way. We are proud of you, and know this is all about the kids."
Mayle, a football coach and science teacher at Philippi Middle School, and Johnson, a football coach at Philip Barbour High School, organized the walk to raise awareness and funds for middle school sports in Barbour County.
Middle school sports coaches' contracts were terminated by the Barbour County Board of Education in February, with officials citing funding constraints. Mayle formed the One Step at a Time organization and pledged to help the Barbour All County Sports Organization earn $50,000 by July. To date, the groups have raised $28,214.07.
Mayle and Johnson plan to walk approximately 30 miles each day this week, during their spring break from school, to arrive in Canton Saturday.
Additional information about the Barbour All County Sports Organization and One Step at a Time is available on the organizations' Facebook pages.