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Charles Janssen’s Trail to Knowledge Event

To Support Charlie and ALEF, you can download a .pdf form with information.

Charlie Janssen was originally from Stamford, Connecticut but has lived in Leawood, Kansas since 1990. He is the only son of Rebecca Ann Janssen and the fourth child of the late Eduard Daniel Janssen who passed in 1996 and has three siblings -- Oscar, Michael, and Britt. He graduated from Blue Valley North High School where he played soccer and ran cross country and track. Additionally, he played club soccer for the K.C. Cosmos and was part of the National Honor Society.

Among other honors, he received the President’s Community Service Award four consecutive years (completing 100 hours or more of community service in a year) as well as earning the rank of Eagle Scout in 2002. He was awarded EKL Scholar athlete eight consecutive times and received the “outstanding performance in the classroom” award during his junior year. Charlie was passionate about his work on the track and was a two time 6A state qualifier in cross country and a one-time state qualifier in the 1600 meter in track. He signed a declaration of intent with Pittsburg State University (Pittsburg, Kansas, NCAA Division II affiliate) for the fall of 2006 to run cross country and track. He was nominated to the MIAA Academic Team in both 2007 and again in 2010.

He transferred to Black Hills State University in Spearfish, SD and continued to run collegiately as well as pursuing a history/government education degree. While at Black Hills State University (BHSU), Charlie achieved all-DAC cross country honors and helped BHSU to an 8th place NAIA national cross country finish in 2008. During his indoor career, he received all-DAC honors in both the 4x800 meter and 3000 meter indoors events and earned a showing on the national qualifying distance medley relay team in 2009 en route to establishing the 3rd fastest DMR time in the BHSU history.

After transferring back to Pittsburg State University in the fall of 2009, Charlie continued to train and compete at a high level and became the vice chair of the Student Athletic Advisory Council (SAAC) for the 2010-2011 school year. He was on the Dean’s Scholastic Honor Roll for three consecutive semesters, was also a Department of Social Sciences honor student. Additionally, he was an active member of KNEA (Kansas Chapter of the National Education Association) as well as being inducted into the Pittsburg State University Chapter of Phi Alpha Theta (National History Honor Society).

Currently, Charlie is associated with the Kansas Speleological Society, Kansas Herpetological Society, USATF, and competing for the Kansas City Smoke. The Kansas City Smoke is a USATF Elite Development Club that was established in 2002 to provide training and competitive opportunities to emerging elite, post-collegiate distance runners based in the Missouri Valley Association, gaining USATF elite development status in 2004 with five team members qualifying for the Olympic trials in the marathon alone between 2004 and 2008.

His final semester in college was highlighted by teaching and coaching experiences at Girard High School in Girard, Kansas where he taught one section of freshman/sophomore world history and four sections of American history. Charlie found that secondary education and coaching was his passion.

Inspiration – In his own Words

“So here’s what you have probably been waiting to read this whole time: why did I decide to tackle this immense undertaking and to go 3.5 months off the true grid of humanity and attempt to traverse the entire length of the 2,184 mile long Appalachian Trail with a fully loaded pack in one hundred days or less? If you do the basic arithmetic, that would require 21.7 miles per day for 100 days. If that doesn’t sound daunting enough and to break it all down to analytical form, that is 152.0 miles per week for 14.3 consecutive weeks over the undulating terrain of the rugged and ancient Appalachian Mountain Range, high-pointing the infamous summits of Mount Katahdin in north central Maine, Mount Washington in northern New Hampshire, and Clingman’s Dome in Smoky Mountains National Park of eastern Tennessee.

However, also consider this: the world record is 47 days, which demands 46 miles per day. Although to be fair, these are contracted endurance athletes who have a multifaceted support crew meeting them at every town, hamlet or junction on the trail carrying all necessary gear and not to mention a plethora of auxiliary people like a masseuse, nutritionist, dietician, etc. Nonetheless, that pace is truly blistering and defies what most of the human race is capable of.

The reason that I decided to tackle this crazy venture is due to a multitude of complex reasons. I initially received literature on trail guides, data books, thru-hikers companions, and National Geographic’s: America’s Wild Spaces on the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail among other sources. This has intrigued me for the last four years or so. I had joked nonchalantly in the last few years with family that I would one day backpack the entire trail. After this last year of school (taking a full six years and 181 hours with no break to complete my undergraduate degree), I decided that this is the right time in my life for me to do this.

However, I did not want this to be a solely self-centred venture. I wanted to do something that I would be truly proud of besides the personal goal of challenging myself on the most coveted long distance hiking trail in America and meeting my one hundred day goal. I wanted to help and benefit others as well. After months of dreaming and mentally planning for this event and being an endurance athlete, I felt it was time to challenge myself and implement what I believe is an epic plan that is rapidly turning into reality.

The person that really inspired me to do this has been dead nearly 31 years to the day. This individual is Terry Fox. Terry Fox was not only a humanitarian, but was also an amazing athlete and had the biggest heart of anyone that I have ever read or researched in contemporary history. Fox was a standout basketball player at the NAIA institution of Simon Fraser University in the Canadian province of British Columbia in the late 1970’s.

During his tenure he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, an aggressive form of cancer that afflicts extremities. To save his life, his traditional basketball career was cut short when his right leg had to be amputated. Handling life with grace, tenacity, and wanting to support cancer research, he decided to run across Canada on a whim to raise money for this cause.

He began in St. John’s Bay, Newfoundland with no goal in mind and ran the equivalent of a marathon a day with primitive leg prosthesis. How long did he keep that pace up one might ask. The answer is 135 days until he was forced to quit near Thunder Bay, Ontario due to his progressive exhaustion from his cancer coming out of remission. Nine months later at the age of 23, he tragically died. Today, he is one of Canada’s national heroes and thanks to his humanitarian efforts and athletic competitiveness; he ended up raising an astounding $500 million for cancer research.

I could go on and on about the whole process of getting to where I am at this exact moment before I embark on this ultimate test of adventure or about the people that drive and motivate me, but this is entirely too long. I am honoured to be in close conjunction with General Doc Foglesong and the Appalachian Leadership and Education Foundation. This whole undertaking would not be half as meaningful if ALEF was non-existent. I intrinsically feel that raising money for financially challenged but great students is more than an honourable cause.

Feel free to donate as much or as little as you would like to support this amazing organization. For those individuals that do donate to the ALEF, a thank you letter will be sent to recognize any contribution you make. All monetary donations are also tax deductible. You will be able to donate now until I get to the last 3”x6” signature white blaze of the AT on top of Springer Mountain, Georgia, hopefully by Halloween. Thank you so much for your love and support.”

Inspiration – In Somebody Else’s Words “I went to the mountains because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

Where I Lived and What I Lived For, H.D. Thoreau