Two New Jersey brothers, Aiden and Louis Ardine set out to walk 3,200 miles across America to raise money for restaurant workers stuck at home during COVID. The two, who are former bartenders, hoped to raise $30,000 for some charities that were helping restaurant workers waiting for restrictions to end, but ended up making $70,000—which they distributed to the COCO Fund and the Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation.
Both experienced the stresses of working in a bar during the pandemic firsthand. While they had the privilege of being able to provide for themselves after being laid off, many of their friends and family did not find themselves in the same situation. They decided to give back to the industry that they loved being a part of by shining a light on an issue important to them by sharing stories of individuals they meet along the road to raise awareness and funds for restaurant workers across the country.
They have now completed their five-month walkabout which started on the Asbury Park boardwalk in New Jersey on May 1st. “It’s been an extremely difficult year and a half, and you don’t know the obstacles people have faced and the challenges they’re still dealing with,” Aiden says. “We realized that we could walk across America and sort of pursue this challenge for ourselves, learning about America and helping people in the service industry. It was super important for us.”
At every step of the journey, they were meeting the people they’re helping and hearing their stories of strength and resilience. Verizon heard about the endeavor and launched a donation drive in support of the Ardines, who passed through 11 states over the course of 162 days, 12,000 feet in various elevation changes, and about 80 degrees in temperature variation before the job was done.
“This would not have been possible without the help of a huge community of people, whether people were donating or helping us navigate our way across the United States.” Aiden Ardine said. “This was definitely an adventure founded in a very hopeful notion about America, and it confirmed our suspicion that people are inherently good and want to help their neighbors.”
Their trip, which was documented on social media, was filled with stunning scenery, long roads, and helpful strangers. From the man who passed them in the searing heat of summer in Iowa, before doubling back and giving them a cold Gatorade to a Nevada campground manager who let them stay for free. When they reached San Francisco, their supporters were waiting for them on the beach. Afterwards they flew home along with their mom who had been in San Francisco to meet them at the end of their trek.