So about one year ago, Stephen Hnilica embarked on a 4,600 mile journey from his home town of New Port Richey, FL to Seattle, WA to with a vision to raise $100,000 to educate 10,000 children in India. After months of searching for a charity that would have the maximum impact with the funds he raised, he was introduced to the Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation. “I had never seen a more dedicated group of people, or a more powerful system for educating those in need”, he says.
Stephen has already walked from his home town of New Port Richey, a suburb of Tampa, to San Diego. Covering 3,000 miles Stephen says “This has been the best experience of my life. I have met so many incredible people and have discovered just how welcoming our country is to a complete stranger. Arielle in New Orleans, who met me on the streets in the French Quarter and hosted me for a week or Razi Mithani, who offered me his home while he was on vacation.”
Departing on the 25th of May, 2013, Stephen has walked 3000 miles, experienced temperatures as low as -5F and as high as 103F, worn out 7 pairs of Spira running shoes and walked across eight states. In spite of taking up an epic journey across United States of America to help underprivileged children in India, he is very humble and says “I believe that given the right reasons, anyone could have done what I have. There’s nothing special about me, just the passion and purpose I’ve chosen to develop in my life. Everyone can make a difference, Everyone can do something great in their life.” He reminds us that “when we look for the opportunity to help others and do what we are capable of, it puts positive energy into the world. That energy returns to us in the form of purpose in our life.” Over the past year, Stephen encountered a number of challenging situations and many obstacles but there was only one time he ever thought about quitting this journey. Outside Hobbs, New Mexico, Stephen was exposed to a poisonous gas, making him very ill. “After 3 days of not being able to eat and having difficulty breathing, I want to give up and go home. All of my reasons for beginning this journey failed me except one. I made it to the next town because I knew, there are 10,000 children counting on me, and counting on the people who hear my story.” Ekal Vidyalaya currently operates over 57000 schools and have educated over 1,600,000 children. EKAL schools are founded in remote areas where the governments of India do not have the resources to go. Each school has between 30 and 40 students, costing $1 per day to run. To donate: MarchForKids.com. You can walk with Stephen when he is passing through your town. Call him 727-697-7355 for schedule of his walk.