A long walk that really matters

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What do you do when your 18-year-old son, with the promise and prime of his life ahead of him, dies from alcohol poisoning?

Barry Adkins went for a walk.

It wasn't just any walk: He has walked more than 1,000 miles, through deserts and mountain passes - seven days a week on the road, averaging 14 miles a day on his pedestrian trek.

His sojourn, dubbed Kevin's Last Walk, was not just to bring his son's ashes 1,450 miles from Gilbert, Ariz., to Kalispell.

It also was an expedition of hope and education. By sharing his family's tragedy, Adkins hopes to spare other youths the potentially fatal consequences of alcohol.

Along the way on his epic trek, Adkins has told and retold the story of his son's abrupt death in July 2005. He tells how Kevin had just moved into his own apartment the day before his death. He tells how the teen started partying with beer, then moved to hard liquor.

He replays Kevin's last message: At 2:30 a.m., Kevin left a voicemail for his sister, telling her how much fun he was having and that he had downed six double shots of Jack Daniels.

He tells how Kevin passed out later and never woke up. His blood-alcohol level was .36.

After he's done telling all this - often to rapt audiences of youths - Adkins talks about responsibility and how one responsible person could have prevented Kevin's tragedy.

Then he walks on, to the next highway and the next town and the next chance to make Kevin's death matter.

Along his walk, Adkins has spread his message to more than 7,000 people. And it's a message that should resonate with all parents - particularly at this time of year, when the summer party scene is picking up for youths.

Now the walk is nearing its end in Kalispell.

Kevin's Last Walk becomes Kevin's Last Stop on July 1 with a day of remembrance and fun at Majestic Valley Arena.

The end of the trail for Adkins will be a community event, with people invited to walk with him on the last stretch through the Flathead Valley.

It will be one more way for Adkins to share his message, his grief and his love for his son.

Adkins' daily online journal entries close with the prophetic statement:

"Something very good will come from this …"

We think it already has.

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