ROCKPORT — When Chris Christie told a passerby his plans, she told him, quite incredulously, he could not do it.
“I told her, ‘There are some people in this world that still want to do good,’ ” he said. “I’m just a guy from Maine that wants to make a difference.’ ”
The 56-year-old Christie and his dog, Kyli, are prepared to make good on that statement and put feet — and paws — to pavement. And are gearing up for the adventure of their lives.
hristie, through his self-owned company The Character Mill, will participate in Character Walk 2023, where he and his seven-year-old schnauser/terrier/bulldog mix will trek, in the spring, roughly 1,100 miles from North Carolina to Maine.
They will make the walk to raise money and awareness for animal rescues, which have been a big part of Christie’s life.
“My animal rescues that I’ve had over the course of my life have absolutely saved my life multiple times,” he said. “And I said, ‘You know what? I need to give back because these people do amazing work.’ ”
They will partner with seven rescue organizations along their route, which will begin at Caring Hearts for Canines in Southern Pines, N.C. — where Kyli came from — and conclude at P.A.W.S. Animal Adoption Center in Camden.
They plan to fly to North Carolina on Tuesday, March 28 and will depart from Caring Hearts for Canines on Sunday, April 2 at 7 a.m.
“I read a stat that 86 percent of people in nursing homes share something in common,” he said. “And that’s they all have regrets of things they didn’t do during their life. And that stat hit me like a bolt of lightning.”
Christie, who is the head varsity football coach at Camden Hills Regional High School, is taking himself out of his comfort zone, as he encourages people to do through The Character Mill.
“The coaching I do [through The Character Mill] is to help specifically young people find the skills that make them who they are, take those skills and sa, ‘OK now let’s use those skills for a purpose,’” he said. “That’s the premise.”
Leaving no regrets is a major part of the mission statement. And Christie’s trek up the eastern seaboard helped revive an abandoned project he had left behind in 2019.
That project is a social media platform called “The Mill,” where people are encouraged to come together to not only network, but to inspire and empower people to chase their dreams and adventures. And to not put them off.
“We started taking a hard look and saying, ‘OK, what are those barriers that are stopping people from doing that?’ It comes down to a financial barrier, or a knowledge barrier, they’re just scared or they don’t know where to begin. In this app, we have addressed all of those things,” Christie said.
Within the app are multiple components which includes Character Cafe, which Christie said functions much like Instagram; Character Partners, where companies around the world enhance or assist your adventures through various discounts and benefits; Character Talks, for podcasts; Character Builders, an ambassador program; and Character Giving, which helps fund non-profit organizations.
The app, which will have no ads, is $3.99 per month.
“We’re going to focus on a specific non-profit every single month and 50 cents of every subscription that comes in on a monthly basis goes to support that specific non-profit,” said Christie. “Your 50 cents might not mean much and mine might not mean much, but together with 500,000 people around the world? Now you’re writing a $250,000 check to a nonprofit. Now we’re changing some lives.”
For 2023, each month will focus on various animal rescue organizations. And 100 percent of money raised through sponsorships and donations from Christie’s trek from the Tar Heel State to the Pine Tree State will be split evenly among the seven rescues Christie partners with.
His goal is to raise $250,000 for those animal rescues, but also “to raise awareness of the app because I think it’s life-changing.”
“For us, the definition of adventure is embarking on something where the outcome is uncertain. That could be learning to cook french cuisine or learning to ballroom dance with your spouse. Chasing those things now is an adventure,” he said.
Thus, the app makes subscribers eligible to reap benefits from companies eager to help facilitate a next adventure, but also allows one to donate monthly to non-profit organizations, in addition to networking with people.
Christie, who also has been involved in golf and Alpine ski instruction during his life, said The Mill will be available online as he begins his journey on April 2.
He walks three to seven miles a day to train for the event and soon will amp up to 10 to 12 miles per day. He anticipates the journey to take three months.
“Hopefully somewhere right around the end of June I’ll be back for conditioning camp for football,” he said.
He does have a GoFundMe page to cover personal expenses, including the $800 cart he needs for personal effects.
And, of course, if Kyli needs a break.
“It’s just the two of us,” he said. “I’m going to be pushing a trailer that will have all our equipment with us and I’m pushing it also because if she gets tired she can get in and I can push her.”
He also plans to do live updates along the way on Facebook and TikTok.
“The majority of the time it’ll be pushing my cart, getting where I need to go, doing social media work and when it gets dark, finding a place in the woods to go camp out.”
He added in his research for such a trek, it is mainly advised to travel light.
“What they all say is pack way lighter,” he said. “You get two shorts, couple pairs of underwear, couple t-shirts, some socks, a jacket, rain pants. I’m going to pack super light. I want to be as self-sustained as a possibly can. I’m sure I’ll meet people along the way and offer us their backyard and that sort of thing, but I really want to make it a trip for just Kyli and I.”
To sponsor Chris and Kyli on their journey, email Christie at email@example.com. Or, to donate to help cover personal expenses, visit gofundme.com/f/character-walk-2023-a-walk-for-paws-and-a-cause.