Two collegiate hockey players from the University of Massachusetts Boston traded ice skates for roller blades and journeyed nearly 900 miles from Boston to Michigan to raise money for the American Cancer Society.
The idea, like many things born out of boredom during the pandemic, started after teammates Jacob Adkins, 21, and Andrew Walker, 22, each decided to buy a pair of roller blades.
The two started roller blading only a few miles at a time, and one day Walker asked Adkins how much money it would take to go all the way to Los Angeles. That idea eventually bloomed into the plan to roller blade to Walker’s home in Mason, Michigan.
Adkins and Walker dubbed themselves the “Men in Blades” on social media and departed from the University of Massachusetts Boston campus at 4:30 a.m. on July 13.
“The journey became very difficult rather quickly,” Walker told CNN. “There were plenty of times where one of us would completely lose vision and would have to grab the other’s shirt for guidance.”
Walker said he convinced himself that he had vertigo for a few days, and the persistent hills and heat in Connecticut and Pennsylvania were particularly challenging.
“The toughest part of the journey had to be when we were getting through one of our last days in Pennsylvania,” Adkins said. “We were battling 93-degree heat and we stopped to sit down for a second when I collapsed and passed out while sitting on the side of the road.”
The two had a support team following them in an RV, and they rushed out to pour water and ice on Adkins’ face and body to help him cool down and recover. While Adkins was able to get back on his feet, Walker held Adkins under his arm while Adkins closed his eyes and skated forward to their next destination.
“I think I speak for the both of us that this is definitely the toughest thing both physically and mentally that either of us have ever been through,” Adkins said.
“The toughest moments throughout the journey are the ones that I will remember the most and that will humble me for the rest of my life.”
Ten days after departing from Boston, the two reached their destination in Mason, Michigan, on the afternoon of July 22.
“I think that because of this journey I know that I am able to reach any feasible goal that I set my mind to,” Adkins said. “This trip elevated my perseverance as well as my determination, and I learned the most about myself during this 10-day span.”
The two started a fundraiser on GoFundMe on behalf of the American Cancer Society, which has already raised over $25,000. The two are hoping that the fundraiser will eventually reach or exceed its goal of $100,000.
Both Adkins and Walker have seen firsthand the devastating effects of cancer. Cancer has been in Adkins’ family for generations, from his grandparents to his aunt and mother. Adkins’ mother is a two-time Lymphoma survivor, and she inspired the idea for them to give back to cancer research with their fundraising.
Walker’s grandfather died from cancer, and his aunt beat brain cancer six years ago. Walker said that his hometown of Mason has been “riddled with cancer affecting my classmates, friends, and their family members as well.”
“To see that what we are doing is generating so many donations to support cancer research is very exciting and uplifting,” Adkins said.
“Coming from backgrounds having dealt with cancer, it truly means everything to both of us and our families, and we are hoping this shines a light on the things to be grateful for in life and that cancer hasn’t stopped, so neither should we.”