The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has 900 miles of hiking trails, and Steve Claxton plans to hike every one of them to raise money for the Big Brothers Big Sisters programs in Graham and Swain counties.
Steve Claxton, an outfitter by trade who grew up in and lives in Swain County, expects to complete all 900 miles by the end of the year. He’s hoping people inspired by his “Hiking for Hope” campaign will support the two branches by contributing whatever they can to this secure web site, Hiking For Hope.
The work volunteers like Claxton do for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Western North Carolina is vitally important. Here’s why: When Claxton was matched with his Little Brother, the sixth-grader had failed three grades. Claxton told the boy he was going to graduate from high school “and that I was going to be there to watch him walk across the stage,” Claxton said.
Come graduation time many years later, his “Little” was on the A/B honor roll and Claxton was on the Appalachian Trail, raising money for BBBS in Swain and Graham counties, which he helped start, and for the Friends of Barnabas, a faith-based benevolent organization. Inspired by his Little Brother, Claxton flew home just in time for the high school graduation ceremony.
“He didn’t know that I was going to make it,” Claxton said. “I didn’t know that I was going to make it, until the last minute.” His Little, now 23 and a supervisor with a good job, is doing “extremely well,” Claxton said.
“That’s what inspired me to do more,” he said, referring to his raising money for BBBS of Graham and Swain counties by hiking every last mile of the Smokies. “I saw that you could take a kid that didn’t have a lot of hope and completely turn his life around, just by spending time with him – or her – and showing that you care.
“It’s the biggest thing there is, becoming a ‘Big’ and realizing what a difference it can make in a kid’s life.”
Donations will help the two branches support the matches trained administrators make through their community-based, school-based and afterschool-based programs.