GASTON COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - A Gaston County man is away from home this Thanksgiving, as he treks across the country.
Former North Carolina State Trooper Tommy Dellinger lives with Parkinson's disease, and he is using his journey from California to North Carolina to raise money for a cure. He has been walking for three months.
"I'm just trying to do my little bit to help out," he says via video call.
As of Thanksgiving Day, Dellinger was in West Memphis, Arkansas, planning to eat a meal with strangers, and spread his message to them as he has been to others, for thousands of miles.
The Gaston County resident was diagnosed in 2008. Five years later, he had to leave his position as a state trooper in the area.
"It was definitely a crushing blow for all of us," friend and fellow state trooper Ray Pierce said.
Dellinger was diagnosed in his forties, and since then it has been a battle.
"For a while my right side was so effected, I even had to learn how to shave left handed, brush my teeth left handed, eat left handed," he recalls.
In Feb., a new surgery put two transmitters in Dellinger's head, and a battery pack in his chest – managing the stiffness, and tremors that go along with the condition. While recovering, he says he saw a WBTV story about a man walking across the country.
He was inspired.
"I thought that would be a pretty great way to incorporate the Parkinson's slogan of 'just keep moving,'" he says.
Three months later, the journey continues, and so does the support, flooding in from back home.
"Anything we can do for him to kind of help him along the way," Pierce says.
As the trek gets tougher, that support is what keeps this tired traveler going.
"Had some of them not spoken to me during some pretty important times during the trip, I would have rented a car and been home already," Dellinger admits.
The 2,800 miles hike is set to end Jan. 13, when Dellinger returns home to Gaston County. Law enforcement there is planning a big welcome home party, and Dellinger is inviting everyone to come out and join him for that final leg.
For more on his stories and fundraising efforts, visit www.fundraise.michaeljfox.org/tommyd