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A significant feat for free clinic

Volunteer raising funds for facility by hiking Appalachian Trail

Volunteer raising funds for facility by hiking Appalachian Trail

October 18, 2005|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

For nearly a year, Ken Berry has been volunteering his medical skills one day a month at the Community Free Clinic in Hagerstown.

In a few months, he will trade his lab coat for hiking shoes and a backpack to boost his contribution to the clinic.

"It's always been a dream of mine to hike the entire 2,170 miles of the Appalachian Trail," said Berry, a certified orthopedic physician assistant.

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Berry, who will leave Feb. 27, 2006, has pledged to give up six months of his life to hike the trail to raise money for the Community Free Clinic.

Associated with Robinwood Orthopedic Specialty Center, Berry will leave his duties seeing orthopedic patients and assisting in surgery to strap on a backpack weighing 25 pounds to 35 pounds and hike from Springer Mountain, Ga., to Katahdin, Maine.

Berry, 32, grew up in Frederick County, Md., and always has done a lot of hiking and camping, but he said he has never before attempted anything of this magnitude.

"I'm doing it alone," Berry said.

Between now and February, he will seek pledges of financial support for his hike. Whether money is promised per mile or in a lump sum, all contributions are tax-deductible because of the clinic's status.

Berry has established a Web site that will track his progress along the trail. That site, which already is in place, is accessible at trailjournals.com/kenberry.

The Appalachian Trail is the nation's longest marked footpath and touches 14 states from Georgia to Maine. It runs along Washington County's eastern border. By hiking the trail, Berry hopes to raise money and sponsorships for the clinic, and bring attention to the importance of the clinic to the county.

A volunteer practitioner at the clinic, Berry diagnoses and treats arthritis, old fractures and muscular complaints. He said he is happy to help the clinic provide comprehensive health care for medically uninsured county residents.

"We must insure the long-term viability of the clinic for our community," Berry says. "With the ever-changing marketplace and the possibility that any one of us could go without health insurance, we, as Washington County residents, should be proud that we have a place that cares for people in that situation."

The Community Free Clinic was established in 1990 to provide medical care and prescription medication to those in Hagers-town and Washington County who are medically uninsured. The clinic is supported through individual donations, local businesses and small grant foundations.

For information about the clinic or Berry's hike, call 301-733-9234.

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