Mary Katherine Murphy
Brent Webb has spent the last three months walking around Scotland County like a man on a mission.
However, he is more likely to describe himself as a man with a mission.
This weekend marks one year since Webb resolved to end his struggle with addiction, which began after he was prescribed painkillers following an injury incurred while serving as a Marine in the Iraq War.
He will not be spending the anniversary in a quiet celebration. At 8 a.m. this morning, Webb will set out on “The Epidemic Walk Project,” a 350-mile journey from Wanchese through Carthage to Greensboro – on foot. In doing so, he will visit the three North Carolina men’s Teen Challenge locations, the program he credits with his recovery from addiction.
Beginning on April 13, 2011, Webb spent six months at Greater Piedmont Teen Challenge in Greensboro, a faith-based rehabilitation program for men over the age of 18. After moving back home to Laurinburg, Webb soon began to formulate the next step on his journey. Webb’s hope is that his miniature pilgrimage will help bring awareness to the pernicious reality of addiction.
“Not everyone sees the necessity of someone bringing and shining a light on the darker side of a community – a lot of people would rather sweep it under the rug and pretend it doesn’t exist, act like it’s not there, and pretend there’s not a problem,” said Webb.
Webb has spent the year to date speaking about his experience around Scotland County and North Carolina, speaking to various churches as well as the Laurinburg City Council.
“It’s getting to the point now where you can’t sweep it under the rug anymore, there’s an obvious problem that needs attention drawn to it and I really feel like that’s where Mayor Parker really wanted to get me some exposure, just because he knows there’s a problem and I’m trying to shed a positive light and do something about the problem instead of hindering the community anymore,” Webb said.
His success so far has exceeded his wildest imaginings – he has raised nearly $10,000 for Teen Challenge programs through various fundraisers.
“I wasn’t expecting for it to get this big,” Webb said. “I thought maybe I’d raise $5,000 by the end of this thing, but I never would have thought $10,000 before I even start walking. To think that I could possibly raise between $15,000 and $20,000 by the time this is over with is beyond comprehension to me.”
He has found support in the Scotland County community as well as communities which house Teen Challenge centers.
“With Brent, you can tell that this is real, this is not anything he’s doing for himself,” said Opie Swails, pastor of Multitudes Church in Laurinburg, Webb’s home church. “He’s doing it first of all to bring glory to God and second of all to bring awareness and to try to help because he understands how big the problem is even in a small community like ours. It’s a huge problem and people have gotten behind him in our church and even outside of our church, in these communities where he’s gone and spoken.”
“There’s been a great outpouring of support especially from my own church family and from some community churches,” Webb added. “It just depends on what people are able to do, and some people have different talents than others, but what I’ve seen people do is really pour out their talent.
Webb will be accompanied by a camper throughout his trek, but for most nights his supporters have arranged for hotel accommodation.
“We have several area churches who have committed so much money per mile that he walks,” said Amy Dough, public relations representative for Dare Challenge in Wanchese. “People see the results of Teen Challenge that live in these communities and they’re just all for it.”
Swails believes that Webb, having fought addiction himself, is uniquely qualified to advise and inspire others.
“Scotland County is definitely not exempt from addiction and it’s a bigger problem than most people realize – it’s all around all of us whether or not we know it,” said Swails. “Brent is going to be a good catalyst to bring awareness because he’s not somebody from the outside looking in, he’s somebody who unfortunately had to go through it, so he’s someone who can really relate and be passionate about what he’s doing. I’m pleased that he went the route he did – so many people do revert back because they don’t stay busy or whatever the case might be. “
Dough has helped Webb to orchestrate much of his support network and publicize his endeavor.
“When he first called me, I wasn’t surprised because I just see what happens to these guys in this program, in any Teen Challenge program,” said Dough. “When they graduate, they’re on fire; they just want so much to do something to give back and help other men.”
From Dare Challenge, Webb aims to walk 25 miles per day until he arrives in Greensboro around April 27. For the first three miles, he will be accompanied by the students in the Dare Challenge program, from which point he will be on his own except for a following vehicle. He will do most of his walking on rural roads.
“I’ve been training since January, kind of working my way up – the longest I’ve walked is about 17 miles,” he said.
Ultimately, Webb hopes that his success will inspire others struggling with addiction to seek help.
“I make the comment a lot that it’s not about me, but I’m glad and I’m blessed to be the face associated with it,” said Webb. “It’s just amazing to see how many people will come behind you and come beside you and help you out because they believe in the ministry and what it can accomplish; it’s very humbling.”
To follow Webb’s progress or support Epidemic Walk, follow his blog at www.epidemicwalkproject.com, follow his Twitter page @epidemicwalk, check out Epidemic Walk’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ewpnc, call him at 384-7558, or email email@example.com.