Duo raising money for homeless shelter seek donations from Carson City

Traveling from New York, duo Abby Bongaarts and Dan Finnegan approach Austin, Nev. August 16.

Traveling from New York, duo Abby Bongaarts and Dan Finnegan approach Austin, Nev. August 16.

Two friends traveling from Long Beach, New York, are visiting Carson City for the first time this weekend.

But they didn’t travel by plane or car — they traveled on foot for a cause and are on mission to inspire each city to get involved raising money for a homeless shelter.

Abby Bongaarts and Danny Finnegan, both 24, are expected to arrive in Carson City Sunday after taking a couple of rest days in Fallon, on top of walking more than 2,800 miles since March 1.

Their destination is San Francisco, Calif., estimated to enter sometime next month.

“It’s been a dream for the both of us to travel across the country,” Finnegan said. “We wanted to do it for the sake for adventure and meet people from all walks of life, but we’re really passionate about supporting the homeless population. It started as our own journey and evolved into a fundraiser.”

Both Bongaarts and Finnegan are former Americorps volunteers who met in Portland, Ore., during their service for JOIN: Connecting the Street to a Home. The nonprofit organization supports the efforts of homeless individuals and families to transition out of homelessness into permanent housing. The two worked in JOIN’s Day Space, where individuals and families experiencing homelessness could access basic services like showers, mail, and other services.

The duo is raising $20,000 for JOIN and so far has made $18,830 from generous donations of the people they met along the way.

After traveling through towns along Nevada’s section of the Lincoln Highway — Austin, Eureka, Ely, Great Basin National Park, Fallon, and Middlegate — Finnegan said he has a simple request for folks in Carson City.

“Stop and talk to us,” he said. “Our inspiration is to meet people and talk to people across the country. The best thing about this journey is the people we’ve met.”

Bongaarts and Finnegan can’t be missed on the sidewalk, as they’re pushing a massive, loaded cart with a sign that says “Walking Across America.” Specifically built for long-distance traveling, it’s stacked with camping equipment, food, weather protection, two large backpacks, and other survival needs.

“Some people think we’re pretending to be homeless because we’re pushing a big cart,” Finnegan said. “We’re raising money to a shelter we worked at. It’s not going to us, it’s going to agency.”

The duo also blogs about their journey, like how they met a man at a campsite in Eureka who was heading to Reno. The man provided them water, donations, and a free night at the campsite.

“It’s been a universal experience everywhere we’ve been,” Finnegan said. “But this is the part of Nevada we really wanted to explore. We heard it’s beautiful, in which it is.”

Despite the heat and recent thunderstorms, Fallon and Carson City are lucky spots for the duo, as they are staying with a family relative residing in Fallon, and at a friend’s in Carson City.

Both of their families will meet in San Francisco to watch Bongaarts and Finnegan cross the finish line.

After they take a dive in the ocean, the donations the duo raised for JOIN will be matched. Bongaarts plans to move back to her home near Minneapolis, Minn., to pursue a career in social work while Finnegan returns to home in Rockville Centre, New York, to study in law school, with an emphasis in affordable housing.


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