Los Angeles resident, Mario Landeros, walking across the U.S. for Charity | People
As a member of the Couchsurfing community, I have the pleasure of meeting a great variety of people passing through Conway, Arkansas. Mario Landeros, a 39 year old philanthropist from Los Angeles, CA is walking across the United States in an attempt to raise $1,000,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Mario said of his goal, “I’m kind of an optimistic person and I tend to go big.” His journey will take him from Los Angeles to Memphis, TN, where he hopes to meet a couple whose daughter was recently treated at St. Jude’s and who has been in correspondence with Mario for a few weeks, and finally ending in Maine.
Mario, who has been volunteering with children with chronic diseases for the past five years, thought up this fundraising project last November. After discussing the idea with friends and family, he reached a point where he needed to “stop discussing it or just pull the trigger and do it.” So, in May, he gave up his apartment, donated most of his belongings and set off on his journey. “Seriously”, Mario said, “starting out, I really didn’t know what to expect with this, but I’ve learned a lot since then.”
Some people have wondered how Mario has kept his expenses low while traveling in this manner. He shared that he shops for food at dollar stores and rations his food, shops for clothing and supplies at second-hand stores and oft-times sleeps on the ground. Mario is also staying with Couchsurfers (CSers), in hostels and sometimes camping in city parks (with permission from local police). Some of the people he has met along the way have also helped out by donating clothes, gear and shoes. One kind man in Wichita, Kansas donated a new sleeping bag and better tent after Mario was caught in a rainstorm.
When asked about the effect of social media networks on his fundraising efforts, Mario said that he was somewhat disappointed. “At first I expected social media to be a good way to get the word out, but after a while I noticed that there was a drop in my reach on Facebook.” Twitter seemed to be a more effective tool because it caused a number of people to go to his Facebook page. Mario said that a few celebrities involved in St. Jude’s have even retweeted information about his journey to their followers. Mario said, “I don’t think social media works as well as it could, especially for something like this.” He has been down heartened by instances such as sharing an Instagram photograph of shotgun shells and beer cans, which received around 400 shares; the disappointing thing being he cannot get people to share his charity page on this level. “People seem to be afraid to ask others to donate money, even for a good cause.”
Mario has found that the Couchsurfing community is a good way to share knowledge and experiences with people of various backgrounds. He has found that CSers are good at sharing valuable information about hiking and travel in different weather. He has found it very interesting to see the difference in culture between people in different states.
There have been sobering instances in Mario’s journey to date. “There have been moments where I was just frustrated. Thinking about not having showered in days, or eating poptarts every day for breakfast for a week…then I think about what some of the kids at St. Jude’s have to go through and I’m like, whatever, I should be thankful to be alive and have food.” Mario says that meeting kids who have been helped by the research center reminds him of why his work is important.
You can find more information on Mario’s project here: http://operationcheer.blogspot.com.
Mario asks that you please share his Facebook page with friends and family, even if you cannot donate to his cause: http://www.facebook.com/OperationCheer