"Original Forrest Gump" Raises Awareness of Child Abuse

Louis Figueroa
Louis Figueroa

Step by step, mile after mile, one man's working to make a difference in children's lives. A marathon runner who's known by people around the world as the original Forrest Gump is walking across America with a message.

Louis Figueroa wants everyone to be more aware of the problem of child abuse. He says we all need to take action to make sure children don't continue to be victimized.

He is the man who inspired the famous words of Forrest Gump. "When I got tired, I slept. When I got hungry, I ate. When I had to go to the bathroom, I went."

It is how Louis Figueroa runs his life and his cross-country journeys. He started 12 years before Forrest Gump made his celebrated run across country to run across America for a ten-year-old boy with bone cancer. Since then, he has walked for his brother, diagnosed with AIDS. Now, he is on a new mission. On January 29, he began walking from Tucson, Arizona to protect children from child abuse.

"In this country, in 34 states, a father can sexually abuse his child and instantly be eligible for probation--probation and therapy," said Figueroa. "He doesn't have to do one day of jail time."

As a child abuse survivor himself, he is fighting to make sure what happened to him will not happen to other children. "I never told anyone, which is not unusual. We call ourselves children of the secret because the pedophile always says, 'This is our secret, don't tell anyone.'"

Now, Figueroa is telling the world. He will walk 7,500 miles, heading north through Washington, DC, before turning west and back toward Tucson, Arizona.

"Everyone has a gift. The secret to life is to find that gift and use it to better humanity. My gift is my feet go long distances," said Figueroa. "I know I'm not going to save the world; however, I'm hoping I'm going to save a couple of kids."

Kiwanis clubs across the country are following Figueroa by car along his journey. He will walk all but the final mile. He wants the people at the finish line to take those steps. Because he says even though his walk is finished, our work as a society to protect children is just beginning.

To learn how you can help protect children from abuse, visit www.protect.org.

Reported by: Liz Flynn, lflynn@wtoc.com