BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A Baton Rouge man is leaving his job, family, and friends behind to backpack across 14 states, and he's doing it all to raise awareness about brain and behavior disorders that plague millions of Americans.
Chip Dennison, 52, loves running and biking the outdoors, but these days, he's spending a lot of time lifting at the gym.
"I don't try and do really high weight. I try to do little things that integrate different body parts, stabilize muscles. I use a lot of kettle bells, a lot of medicine balls, low weight/high rep exercises," Dennison said.
Dennison is about to embark on his biggest adventure yet. He is training to hike the Appalachian Trail. It's a series of pathways that run from Springer Mountain just north of Atlanta, Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. It's a roughly 2,200 mile hike. The trail is open to the public from the spring to the fall. That gives Dennison at least six months to complete it. He leaves on Friday, March 30.
"I've done hikes this hard, but much shorter distances, so I'm not really concerned about the day to day or any single feat. It's the back to back accumulation of the 130 or 140 days," Dennison said.
Preparing for a journey along the Appalachian Trail requires a lot of dedication and focus on form, but it also requires a lot of mental strength. Dennison has found a way to train and keep his head in the game. He's dedicating this expedition to help raise awareness and money for the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation (BBRF). The foundation funds gr ants to scientists who study a wide range of mental health illnesses. Donors can channel their funds to a specific research project. One hundred percent of the donations go directly to those scientists.
"It's something that has touched my life deeply in several different areas. Numerous people in my family have had struggles or had their lives limited to mental health issues," Dennison said.
Dennison expects to spend some time visiting towns along his trek across the east coast to refuel and restock supplies, but he says most of his time and energy will be on the challenging Appalachian terrain. It's his form of therapy and a way to help those who are dealing with mental illness find new ways to cope.
"I think it's important that we try to understand how the brain works, better, to try and make sure everyone, no matter their upbringing or obstacles, has a chance to lead a healthy and productive life," Dennison said.
For more information on BBRF, click here.