By MARK BELCHER
BROCTON On the last leg of a journey which took him 275 miles from his current home, D.J. Hixson-Abram knelt down in the middle of Brocton's Arches, teary in prayer.
OBSERVER Photo by Mark Belcher
D.J. Hixson-Abram walks into town, the last leg of his journey of over 270 miles in support of the Brocton community.
He was surrounded by his supporters, especially his son Jason Abram, who accompanied him.
Hixson-Abram started the journey in Dillsburg, Pa., seven days ago; he walked 130 of his miles traveled, each of which was sponsored.
"This was really about the school and the community," the Brocton native stated.
He said he was doing his part to pitch into a fundraising campaign to help restore Brocton's historical double arch. The project, which was estimated at roughly $180,000, received enormous support, with funds raised just over $29,000 to date. That paired with a parks and recreation grant of $150,000 puts the village near its goal.
Dan King, village historian, said the restoration project is more than just a paint job. He said the restoration will take the arches out of place, bend them back into shape, repair rust spots, fix lights, refinish the paint and relocate to a place farther back so winter road salts won't corrode the legs. He said they have to do this all while keeping it as historically accurate as possible.
Karen Ardillo, village clerk/treasurer, said his journey, along with the entire fundraising campaign, brought in a plethora of donations.
"I received so many notes and donations from all over the country," she said. "It means so much to so many people, and we are very proud of it."
Hixson-Abram said he was proud too, and he didn't want to sit back and do nothing for his community.
"I had the idea one night, and I put on Facebook 'I'd walk to Brocton to save the arches,'" he said. "But a few people started liking it, and since I was half serious in the first place, I decided if this is my way to contribute, I could do it instead of just sitting behind my desk."
He laughed, saying he could stand to lose a little weight anyways. And he said it took off from there, establishing a Facebook page titled Walk for the Arches.
"There are so many people I'd really like to thank, even some who had no connection to the town," he said of the donations he received along the way.
Hixson-Abram's journey raised over $3,000, a number which pushes the overall campaign over $180,000, and the number is still rising.
"To me, it was nice to raise money, but I didn't care how much," he said. "But it was never about me."
He said it was symbolic, to show how much the community means to people who used to live here.
Mayor David Hazelton attended the event, and he said Hixson-Abram's is right - people really do care.
"This brings back what a symbol the area is to anybody who ever lived here," Hazelton said. "The fact that theres going to be renovations probably shows we're going to be here for another hundred years."
He said projects like this, and other restoration projects happening now are a 'good indicator that people are trying to bring the community back.'
This particular project brought the community out in full force.
Brocton EMTs, State Troopers, the Brocton Fire Department and a host of community members were awaiting the group of walkers who accompanied Hixson-Abram on his last few miles.
"I was overjoyed with the turnout for my dad," Hixon-Abram said. "We just kept walking along, and we finally realized our goal."
When his group walked the final stretch of Route 20, they stopped under the arches, and with sirens blaring from the emergency vehicles, he knelt.
"That alone was enough for me," Hixson-Abram said. "It was the proudest moment of my life."