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Berry hikes Appalachian Trail to raise money for local clinic

Berry hikes Appalachian Trail to raise money for local clinic

April 30, 2006|By MARLO BARNHART

BOONSBORO

With family, friends and colleagues cheering, Ken Berry showed up Saturday at Washington Monument State Park - minus about 15 to 18 pounds and plus some new facial hair.

The 32-year-old certified orthopedic physician assistant now has completed more than half of his goal to hike the entire 2,170 miles of the Appalachian Trail to add to his contribution to the Community Free Clinic in Hagerstown.

A volunteer practitioner at the clinic one day a month, Berry diagnoses and treats arthritis, old fractures and muscular complaints. He said he is happy to help the clinic provide comprehensive health care for county residents who do not have health insurance.

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"So far, Ken has raised $13,000 for the clinic in contributions and pledges," said Robin Roberson, executive director of the clinic. "We've been following his Web site and lending our enthusiasm, which has been a lot of incentive for him to continue."

After hugging his wife, Jennel, and their daughter, Berry talked about the quiet and solitude of hiking the trail alone since he began his trek in late February in Georgia.

"But I also enjoyed the socialization at the shelters," Berry said. "Other than the physical obstacles, it's been great."

The last half of the hike is going to be harder, Berry said.

"New Hampshire and Maine are the hardest states," Berry said. "Up until then, the trail is pretty flat."

Community Free Clinic staff and volunteers gathered at the large pavilion at the park for a picnic in Berry's honor. Family members joined, as did Berry's colleagues from Robinwood Orthopedic Specialty Center, where he sees orthopedic patients and assists in surgery.

"I've known Ken about a year, and he is a real asset to the clinic," said Lance Thompson, a registered nurse with 12 years at the clinic. "He has a wonderful attitude, and the patients really enjoy him."

Berry's wife said she is proud of her husband.

"He always has these goals that are amazing, and he takes me along for the ride," Jennel Berry said.

She has journeyed to meet with her husband several times during the first half of his hike.

"I miss my family, and sometimes, I just don't feel like walking," Berry said. But most of the time, his eye is on the prize of both completing his dream hike and giving back to the Community Free Clinic.

The Community Free Clinic was established in 1990 to provide medical care and prescription medication to those in Hagerstown and Washington County who do not have medical insurance.

The clinic, which Roberson said had 16,670 patient visits in 2005, is supported through individual donations, local businesses and small grant foundations.

For more information on Ken Berry's Appalachian Trail hike, go to www.trailjournals.com/kenberry.

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