By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend
A flyer for Emma and Dan’s Route 6 Journey hangs from the fridge at the Harborcreek home of the Perritano family. Sixteen-year-old Emma Perritano’s face lights up whenever she catches a glimpse of it.
So far, she is enjoying the journey, eagerly waving her hands when they pass someone on the street. All the while, humming her favorite songs, a collection of tunes from Wicked, Disney movies and some old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll.
Her parents, Penn State Behrend men’s soccer coach Dan Perritano and college registrar Jane Brady, said it’s exactly what they hoped for.
“I wanted to take Emma and do something special,” Dan Perritano said. “While she doesn’t understand what we’re doing completely, she points to that flyer now, and she knows we’re doing something special.”
What they’re doing is a 360-mile trek across Pennsylvania’s historic Route 6 to help raise funds for the Arc of Erie County. Emma is a non-verbal life skills student at North East Middle School and has benefitted from the Arc, which provides advocacy and support for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.
Dan is pushing Emma in her Team Hoyt running chair, a custom-built chair designed for physically-challenged individuals that was purchased through grants from ACHIEVA and Billy’s Friends Foundation, two non-profit organizations for persons with disabilities. The two have already begun checking off some of the western miles on Route 6 during weekend outings.
The duo hopes to finish at least 100 miles before setting out on May 18 to finish the trip.
“Once we get on the road, we aren’t coming back,” said Perritano, who will use the MapMyWalk app to track completed miles.
Perritano said the two average about 15-minute miles when moving consistently, and he hopes to do between 15 to 20 miles per day.
“The plan is to do 10 or 11 miles in the morning, have lunch and then do maybe another 10 in the afternoon,” he said.
Perritano said they won’t carry many supplies and will mostly rely on purchasing things on the go.
However, if supplies get too low, Perritano does have a lifeline.
“I can’t imagine them going three of four days without me coming to the rescue,” Brady said.
Perritano plans to finish the journey on May 30, but knows challenges could arise. Hazardous weather could cause a delay, so he said the completion date is tentative.
“It’s going to be so rewarding,” Perritano said. “It’s something special that we will always remember.”
To learn more about the Arc or how you can contribute to Emma and Dan’s Journey, please visit their website at thearcoferie.org or contact Arc president Dr. Karen Morahan at firstname.lastname@example.org or Dan Perritano at email@example.com.
Follow Emma and Dan’s Journey on their Facebook page.