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KNOXVILLE — With each step of his long hike, UT Knoxville alumnus Brian Thompson made strides for kids.

This summer, Thompson hiked the Appalachian Trail — which at 2,179.1 miles long is the longest continuously-marked trail in the U.S. — to encourage people to donate to children’s charities around the nation. His efforts raised more than $30,500 for a variety of organizations.

Thompson — who received his master’s degree in accountancy in 2005 — is one of the many UT alumni, faculty, staff and students who have shared the stories of their charitable efforts with Volunteers Rock the World (VRTW), part of Ready for the World, the campus’s international and intercultural initiative.

“I was sitting at work a few years ago when the thought hit me to take some time off to hike the trail,” Thompson said. “I raised money by having people pledge to a children’s charity of their choice and their pledge was based on the number of miles I hiked.”

The hike took Thompson 149 days, which includes a few days of rest and a few days for his brother’s wedding, to hike from Springer Mountain, Ga., to Mt. Katahdin, Maine.

“I figured the hike would be a challenge to undertake as well as an achievement that very few can say they have achieved,” he said. “It spread the word about what children’s charities are out there and what people are doing to make a difference. I hope to do something else like this in the future.”

Along the way, Thompson mostly slept in his tent, occasionally finding shelter in people’s homes, hostels or hotels.

“I would resupply with food every three to five days when I made it to a town,” he said.

Thompson used a blog to chronicle his hike and fundraising efforts.

“I tried my best to give a daily account,” he said. “It may have even allowed people to get away from their ‘real life’ and ‘virtually’ hike with me.

“Students can read about the charities that others pledged to in order to be more informed and see how people are making a difference,” Thompson said. “They could just get involved with a charity and donate their time or skills instead of money because I understand college kids don’t have money.”

Thompson encourages others to find ways to ‘rock the world’ through volunteering.

“Something small can lead to something really big,” Thompson said. “I am just a small piece of the puzzle. We have to all be pieces in order to help make the puzzle whole.”

C O N T A C T :

Bridget Hardy (865-974-2225,