The night before Walter Carr's first day on a new job, his car broke down. Not wanting to let down his new employer, Carr figured he'd just walk — even though it was a 20-mile trek.
After mapping the route on his phone, 20-year-old Carr set out at midnight from his home in Homewood, Alabama, figuring he'd make it to his job by morning.
"I wanted to show them I was going to be there whatever the situation is. I'm just going to do it," Carr tells MNN. He alternated between walking, jogging and running followed by a 10-second break to catch his breath — and he occasionally questioned his decision.
"At times, I was like man, what are you doing? But then I'm thinking I'm going to this job to say how much it means to me," he says.
At one point, he was chased by a stray dog. But he happened to be carrying a baseball, so he tossed the ball down a hill. The dog gave chase and Carr raced off in the other direction.
About 3 a.m., some Pelham Alabama police officers saw him walking along the side of the road and asked if he needed help. When Carr explained what he was doing, the officers took him out for breakfast and then insisted they buy him a takeout lunch for later.
"I didn’t want to be a bother to them," Carr says. "We talked and got to know each other. They said how proud they were of me."
"They were impressed with his drive and determination and also with the respect he showed officers," Ainsley Allison, community relations coordinator with the Pelham Alabama Police Department, told MNN.
The officers drove Carr to a church, which was a safe place for him to stay until it was time for him to report to his job a few hours later. He only waited for about 20 minutes and then started walking again.
When Pelham Officer Scott Duffey was checking in for work, he heard about Carr and went looking for him, reports AL.com. He found him and drove him the rest of his way to his job as a mover at Jenny Lamey's home.
"You could tell how the officer told us this story that he had complete admiration for Walter and by my reaction, he could tell I did too," Lamey posted on Facebook.
She offered Carr a chance to go upstairs and take a break before the rest of the Bellhops moving crew arrived, but he declined and insisted on helping her and her husband work.
"We chatted while we were working together early yesterday morning ... He was from New Orleans. He and his mother lost their home in Hurricane Katrina and they came and made their home in Birmingham. I asked him if he was tired from all that walking and he said replied that he wasn’t and that he had a 4-hour nap before he left at midnight," Lamey wrote.
"He wore black Nike joggers which he commented that he intentionally wore because he knew he had to walk thru some pretty high grass on his middle-of-the-night trek. He looked at me in the eye and smiled and I felt like I had known him much longer."
Touched by Walter and his journey
Lamey said the entire moving crew from Bellhops was professional, but she was incredibly impressed by Carr, who plans to graduate from Lawson State Community College in Birmingham with an associate's degree in physical therapy. He wants to join the Marines and then get a bachelor's degree in physical therapy.
"I just can’t tell you how touched I was by Walter and his journey. He is humble and kind and cheerful and he had big dreams! He is hardworking and tough," Lamey wrote. "I can’t imagine how many times on that lonely walk down 280 in the middle of the night did he want to turn back. How many times did he wonder if this was the best idea. How many times did he want to find a place to sit or lie down and wait til morning when he could maybe get someone to come pick him up and bring him back home. But he walked until he got here! I am in total awe of this young man!"
Because so many people read and shared Lamey's post and asked how they could help Carr, she started a GoFundMe to help with his expenses.
She wasn't the only one who wanted to help. Bellhops CEO Luke Marklin woke up Sunday morning and read Lamey's post about his new star employee.
"I honestly was blown away," Marklin tells MNN. "We’re fortunate as a company. We have a lot of people doing great things. But Walter's actions — walking 20 miles in the middle of the night to be sure he was going to make it to a job — is everything we’re all about and even raised the bar. It truly blew me away. We quickly got together and said how do we want to show gratitude for Walter for being such an awesome person and how do we capture this moment?"
Marklin decided to hand over the keys to his personal car, a "barely-driven" 2014 Ford Escape. "Walter went above and beyond for us, so we figured we had to go above and beyond for him."
When Marklin presented Carr with the keys, there was hardly a dry eye to be found:
"I thought I was going to wake up and it's going to be all a dream. It doesn’t feel real at all," Carr says.
"It was just a crazy little walk that I just did. I didn't think it was all that special. I want kids to know that if I can do this, I know you can do this. Things are impossible only if you let them be impossible. You can only be defeated If you let yourself be defeated."