For all its sacrifices, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a trigger for many to discover new dreams. For Tommy Pasquale, that’s meant a journey that seemed impossible when it first crossed his mind during the lockdown.

On Sept. 19, the native of Morris County, New Jersey joined friends and family on a Jersey Shore beach to start the adventure of a lifetime. He’s walking 3,000 miles across the continent, pushing a shopping cart spray-painted red, white and blue to raise money for homeless veterans.

“They all thought I was a little bit crazy, and I guess that is understandable,” the 24-year-old said last week from Tennessee, where he’s currently trundling along the back roads and byways of America.

Pasquale, who grew up in Randolph, N.J., and lives in Manasquan, N.J., has raised $15,000 so far, in a trip he’s documenting on various social media feeds. To date, he’s made his way 925 miles through Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia. He plans to end his journey seven months from now in Venice Beach, California.

He’s motivated by “knowing the sacrifices that so many men and women have given to this country to make opportunities for me and everyone else possible,” he said via Zoom. “They’ve done their part to make this country great, so I just want to repay the favor.”

Pasquale, who studied marketing and management at Seton Hall, said his family thought he was being sarcastic when he brought up walking across the country. But he was captivated by the idea, feeling he was at a time in his life where he could take a huge risk for a good cause.

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He quit his job at a payroll and benefits software company and began preparing. Around Memorial Day, he started training with daily walks on the beach to get in shape. “I made the decision to take the chance and go for it,” Pasquale said.

For the past two months, he’s been on the road, pushing a cart modified with oversized wheels and decorated with a big sign advertising his campaign. He starts early in the morning and typically walks 20 to 25 miles a day, stopping between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.

The cart carries Pasquale’s personal belongings, a camping tent and food such as canned beans, peanut butter, granola bars, jerky and nuts. “Every once in awhile, I need something more substantial, so I stop to get some fast food in places like Walmart,” he said.