COMMUNITY GEMS: Fairborn man to walk through 48 states for mental health awareness

Joe Hall’s journey is follow-up to cross country walk in 2022

After Joe Hall finished a 13-state cross-country walk in 2022 to raise awareness for mental health issues and suicide prevention, his feet hurt. His hips hurt. He didn’t intend to do it again.

But Hall changed his mind as he considered the spotlight that he could continue to shine on the issues. And this time he’s going even bigger: A 13,500-mile walk through each of the lower 48 states that he anticipates will take at least 3 years.

“Let’s see what kind of an impact we can make,” Hall said.

Hall, who has been named a Dayton Daily News Community Gem, plans to embark on May 15 from his Fairborn home, with a goal to raise $40,000 for the National Alliance on Mental Illness. He intends to talk to mental health providers along his route and will stop at each state capital to speak with government officials.

His 2022 trek from Rehoboth Beach, Del., to San Francisco, lasted six months and raised $4,500 for the behavioral health unit at Dayton Children’s Hospital in honor of a friend’s son who committed suicide at the age of 16. Hall has had his own mental health challenges, following a 2020 motorcycle crash that resulted in injuries and suicidal thoughts.

Hall, 41, encourages others to share their own stories, including both the struggles and successes.

“The first walk opened my eyes to how widespread the mental health crisis is,” he said.

David Fleck, a friend since childhood, said he has seen Hall’s drive. He knows of Hall’s struggles with mental health, but he wants to impact others rather than dwell on it.

He is making this journey for the right reasons, said Fleck, who lives near Enon.

“Joe is maybe one of the most sincere and self-sacrificing individuals I’ve ever met,” he said. “He truly cares about other people.”

Hall’s path will first take him to Indianapolis before turning toward Kentucky, West Virginia and then the Northeast. He plans to walk year-round, crossing warm weather parts of the country during the winter months. Columbus is expected to be his final destination before returning home.

Along the way he pushes a stroller loaded with the 80 to 100 pounds of equipment he needs, like a sleeping bag, sleeping pads, tarp, food, water, toiletries, clothes, an extra pair of shoes and more. He often reaches out to the local fire or police departments of the towns he approaches to find a place to sleep, or he camps.

During his last trip, he spent 10 to 12 hours a day on the road.

“I’m usually up before the sun,” he said.

Hall plans to post YouTube videos and podcast episodes, speaking with mental health providers throughout the trip. Donations can be made and his progress can be followed through links found at

His journey is slated to start exactly two years after his first walk began, and he knows the trek will be tough. But Hall said the walk and his efforts to call attention to the mental health crisis and suicide prevention is giving him a purpose.

“For me, it’s trying to legitimately make a positive impact on as many people as I can,” he said.

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