Renee Gunselman of Lebanon is a caregiver for a 9-year-old Stayton boy who's trying to get a service dog.
Family friend Robert Smith of Southern California wants to accomplish 1 million acts of kindness, large and small, in memory of his father, singer O.C. Smith.
The two are joining forces next week to walk 100 miles as they work on that goal together.
Smith, 50, whose father is known as the man who sang "Little Green Apples," is actually walking 450 miles, from Long Beach, California, to Las Vegas, Nevada. He started almost three weeks ago, accompanied by Gunselman's brother, Rob Hartley; and a team that includes a videographer and a driver for the recreational vehicle where he usually spends the night.
Gunselman, 55, is joining Smith and her brother for the last 100 miles of the trek.
"I love to be active and I wish I could have joined for the whole 30 days, but I couldn’t check out of life for that long," she said. "I'm just excited to see how it all culminates."
Gunselman's young charge, Tyler Renfro, has autism and battles diabetes. His family is looking to purchase a service dog from an Ohio-based organization called 4 Paws For Ability.
The dogs are specially trained to alert Tyler to low blood sugar or an oncoming seizure. They cost some $15,000, however, which is why Gunselman is trying to help.
Smith, a longtime family friend, was born blind. He settled on his acts of kindness as a way to honor the memory of his father, who died in 2001. He termed it the "Little Green Apples Project."
He had already thought of walking a long distance but was looking for a fundraising purpose. Tyler fit the bill.
Tyler isn't Smith's only focus on the walk, however. He's also delivering flags from Flags of Valor to veterans in the cities and towns he passes, and reaching out in support to children with life-threatening challenges and to other people with disabilities.
Plenty of people walk for multiple miles at a time, but not many of them do so despite being blind. The complication doesn't stop Smith, however, Gunselman said. Nor does he want a service dog of his own, telling his friends, "A service dog would just slow me down."
Smith and Hartley average 14 to 15 miles each day, walking on highways, side roads, sidewalks, city streets, hills and mountains, Gunselman said. They also stop to talk to people, visit schools and promote acts of kindness.
Gunselman said she'll be joining the walk in Death Valley and said she's practicing by making sure she walks at least 5 miles per day.
"This last Saturday I walked 13 miles. I wanted to walk all day to see how I feel, so at the end of the day I’m not surprised."
Donation information for Tyler and Smith's project can be found online at thekindnesswalk.org.
"It's a lot of money that has to be raised," Gunselman said.