NEWS

A Chance for [saving lives] : Duo travels cross country to raise awareness

Savannah Chastain
Jacob Leonard and Chance Stephens crossed into Destin Monday as part of their cross-country trek to raise money and awareness for human trafficking victims in Nepal.

Chance Stephens and Jacob Leonard may look like bums to the untrained eye, but the traipsing pair that walked through Destin Monday afternoon with back-packing bags and a push-cart is really two men on a mission. Stephens and Leonard are walking across America to raise funds and awareness for a non-profit organization called Tiny Hands International, which helps rescue women out of human trafficking.

“Walking really doesn’t matter,” said Stephens when asked the motivation behind his trek. “It’s about taking the time to speak with people about human trafficking as we travel across America.”

Stephens began his journey solo, in Santa Monica, Ca., last September but was joined by Leonard five months ago in Lamesa, Texas.

 “I was going to walk across America for another reason, to help raise money for my friend,” said Stephens. “But before I left, I asked God to use my hands. That same week a Tiny Hands advocate spoke at my church, and I knew that was God answering my prayer.”

 Leonard met Stephens during a speaking engagement that subsequently led the lone traveler to a month-long stay in the small Texan town.

“I had an injury, and his mom told me I could stay with them until I was fully healed,” said Stephens.

 Following the stay, Leonard decided to join Stephens in the cause as he told The Log, the topic hit close to home.

“I’ve had three girl friends in the past that before I met them, were sexually abused,” said Leonard. “It always angered me that nothing was being done about it, and I’d like to help protect other girls’ hearts.”

The traveling pair is currently making their way to Palm Bay, Fla., averaging 20-25 miles a day by walking five days a week. Stephens explained that the two always take the weekends off to stop and speak in local churches about their cause.

“Recently we’ve been averaging 11 miles a day, that’s slow,” said Stephens.

“I think it’s the humidity,” said Leonard, adding, “The heat we can handle, it’s the humidity of not being able to cool off when you’re sweating that’s really slowing us down.”

Both Stephens and Leonard rely on savings, friends and family back home, and partial sales from their online merchandise store to keep them going from day to day, but rely on the hospitality of those they meet along the way for a place to stay at night.

“We always trust God. I never worry where we’re going to stay,” said Stephens.

Stephens told The Log that the pair carry camping gear with them in their 60-pound bags, and often end up setting up a tent in more rural areas. When asked what the two most important items they carry with them are, the response was water and a cell phone.

“We map everything out,” said Stephens, “Without my phone I would always be questioning where I’m at.”

As the two head out towards southern Florida, Stephens said it’s not the destination, but the cause that keeps them going.

“Even if we don’t reach our goal of $160,000, I know good will come from what we’ve raised,” said Stephens. “We give God all the glory; we are not doing this for ourselves.”

For more information on the cause, or to follow the two travelers visit www.achancefor.com. To donate to Tiny Hands International visit www.tinyhandsinternational.org/donate?cause=265.