CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Cancer survivor Michelle Hummel has faced challenges in her life, but nothing quite like the journey she is currently embarking on.
Hummel, a retired Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department captain, is hiking the entire Appalachian Trail over the course of the next several months.
She said the trek is not only a purpose-fulfilling experience but also an opportunity to raise money for charitable organizations close to her heart.
Hummel spent 30 years with the CMPD.
She was the captain over Officers Jeff Shelton and Sean Clark when the two men were killed in a shooting.
Hummel took a break from her trip to speak to WBTV in Zoom interview Wednesday afternoon.
She reflected on the deaths of Clark and Shelton.
“There’s nothing more difficult than losing officers that, you know they belong to you. You’re their captain. You’re responsible for them so as far as that role, there’s probably nothing that’s more difficult than that,” said Hummel.
She said that reflecting on her life and career as she’s hiked the Appalachian Trail has been emotional at times.
“I feel like I did a really good job of dealing with a lot of the things and trauma that I had to deal with over my career,” said Hummel. “I still have so much emotion and so much stuff, I don’t know, I find myself walking down the trail and I’m in tears, and I’m like, ‘Why am I crying? I don’t understand why I’m crying.”
Hummel said that even though the hike is personal for her, she is also hoping to honor others, not only law enforcement officers, but other people whose lives have been taken too soon.
“Are there times when you go, ‘dang my feet hurt really bad, and man I’m tired, I’ve done 17 miles today,’ you’d think that in your mind, but then you think, ‘I’m not stopping because of who I’m out here honoring’,” said Hummel.
The retired officer said she is hoping to raise money for five different charitable organizations during her hike: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Salute to Heroes Charlotte Foundation, Charlotte Cobras Football, COPS 4 the CURE and the Warrior Jace Foundation.
The Warrior Jace Foundation was founded in memory of Jace Thompson, a local five-year-old boy who died of a rare and inoperable brain tumor. Thompson’s mother, Jennifer, said she was very grateful Hummel decided to honor her son during the Appalachian Trail trip.
“It’s just gratitude obviously for what she’s doing, but also, as a mom, to know that somebody is still thinking about your child - there’s just no words that can describe that,” said Thompson in a Zoom interview.
Hummel is traveling with a few other companions along the Appalachian Trail.
The group has already traveled more than 240 miles, but still has hundreds of miles left in the trip.
Hummel said she plans to hike 2,193 miles through 14 different states.
The retired officer said she will be thinking of people like Sean Clark, Jeff Shelton, and little Jace Thompson during the remainder of her journey.
“I’m doing this for them. It’s something that they wouldn’t be able to do, can’t do, because of circumstances, but I can do and I can do it in honor of them and their memory,” said Hummel.
Hummel has created a GoFundMe page for the charities she is supporting during her trip.
She has already raised more than $4,000 to be split among the five organizations.