Matt Majcher, a recent Loyola Marymount University (LMU) graduate, and his friend, Chris Henry, are about to set off on a 230-day journey across the world to raise awareness and funds for fibromyalgia research and to prove that the disease does not have to limit a person.
The journey and the organization Trek230, are headed by Majcher and Henry, who has had a long struggle with fibromyalgia, a disease that has widespread effects. The disease mainly affects the joints, but can cause pain throughout the body and has been known to cause fatigue and depression.
Henry, 22, has been suffering from the disease for about 10 years, but it was only diagnosed four years ago. He describes his symptoms as, “irritable bowels, tight muscles, vision problems, severe allergies, anxiety, sleep problems, and back problems.” Henry says he has found some relief in Western medicine, yoga and acupuncture.
The trip is scheduled to begin in the fall in Puerto Maldonado, Peru. From there, the trek will cover six different countries in South America, then 10 countries in Africa, three countries in the Middle East, 13 countries in Europe, and then finally seven countries in Asia.
The two high school friends recalled how they came up with the idea for Trek230. Majcher, 22, was about to graduate from LMU and Henry from Johnson and Wales University, when the two discussed the next step in their lives. Since being diagnosed with the disease, Henry said he has been pushing the bounds of what he can do by picking up adrenaline-based hobbies, and he shares a love of travel with Majcher. From this came the idea for a traveling adventure, but for a greater good, they said.
The main goals of their trek are to raise money for fibromyalgia research, to bring awareness to the disease, and to prove that someone with this disease can accomplish something as big as this journey across the globe. They say another goal is to create ties with fibromyalgia organizations around the world and to hopefully make connections for Majcher and Henry to make Trek230 a “global movement.” There is a stigma about fibromyalgia, that it is not a serious disease and is psychological, a stigma Majcher and Henry say they are devoted to changing.
“We hope to make this organization a trend,” Majcher says. “So that it finally gets the attention it deserves from people and the government.”
Although Majcher and Henry will be making this trip on a budget, they note that a journey of this length is expensive. To find funding for both the trip and the cause, they are in talks with companies such as United Airlines and Toyota. Although large companies are the hopeful benefactors, they are not necessarily the target audience.
Majcher hopes to gain the attention of college students through the use of social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Podcasts and YouTube. He says the hope is that students will follow his and Henry’s journeys through these media outlets.
However, their work does not end when the trip does. They hope to create an open dialogue about the disease with the people who follow their trek. Since Majcher went to LMU he plans to bring attention of the trip to students there and to the Westchester community and local government.
Majcher feels he owes a lot of this idea and skills to the LMU community, where he learned to hone his networking skills, and said the school’s social justice mission helped to push him. A multi-media design major, he said he is able to do all the publicity on the trip himself.
The friends and future world travelers say the Trek230 publicity is growing quickly and they look to build on its success. With big-name sponsors, and recognition by the National Fibromyalgia Association, Majcher hopes to start hiring people to work for their organization after their journey concludes.
They also hope to encourage others affected by this disease to embark on similar trips.
As Majcher says, “You ultimately have to live your message.”