SPECIAL REPORT: 100 miles for Tyler Trent

Click to watch News 18's special report documenting Aaron Lai's 100 mile walk from start to finish.

Posted: Feb 19, 2019 7:41 PM
Updated: Feb 19, 2019 9:42 PM

Click above to watch News 18's special report documenting Aaron Lai's 100 mile walk from start to finish. 

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — It's Sunday Feb. 17 at 7 a.m. inside the Delta Chi Fraternity house on Purdue's West Lafayette campus. The Boilermaker Men's basketball team plays Indiana Tuesday night, and junior Aaron Lai is going to be there. Not by car, not by bus, but the long way round; 100 miles on his own two feet.

"We're all here for him," said one of the 25 brothers, who were there to send him on his way. Many of them hadn't even gone to bed yet. 

"It's going to be a real long journey," said Lai preparing. "My feet are going to hurt. But in the end, it's to benefit someone else. Purdue pride is a big part of it because we always try to help each other out."

That's where this outlandish, yet fantastic, idea began. Aaron's goal is to raise $10,000 in the name of someone he didn't even know. He's making the trek for Tyler Trent's Purdue Center for Cancer Research Endowment.

"My grandfather, he had lung cancer," explained Lai. "Whenever our family needed help or anything, he'd always be there despite having a really late stage form of cancer. It was like he never had the disease at all."

Aaron wasn't just able to relate to Tyler Trent's story, he was fascinated by it. He said with each step, Tyler would be his guiding light.

"I'm pretty sure once I get further into my walk, I'll be tired," said Lai. "But just having him in my thoughts will really motivate me to keep going."

So with a belly full of oatmeal and a good night's sleep under his six layers of clothes, his brothers sent him off. The first steps on a two and a half day walk to Assembly Hall.

Aaron is from near Detroit, so he knows cold and snow. For several week, he had prepared for this walk, circling campus for up to four hours a night to train. He knew there would likely be winter weather, but hoped it wouldn't come. Well, it did. And a lot of it too.

"My face is cold," Aaron murmured walking south on U.S. 231 in Tippecanoe County. 

The snow kept falling, and he continued walking; step-by-step to a finish line literally miles, and miles away.

Meanwhile, back at the fraternity house, the reinforcements loaded up. Aaron's brothers are rotating to bring him food, water and dry shoes.
"Every four or five hours we have someone new go drop off supplies," said fraternity brother Eric Hong. "I think we were the first people he approached. Honestly, none of us thought he could do it!"

As they drove the same path Aaron was walking, they began to see him on the horizon.

The reunion was short-lived. He chowed down a banana, changed into dry clothes, gave his buddies a thankful handshake and then kept going. 

It was time for the TV cameras to quit stopping him so he could make some headway. Aaron would trek more than 80 miles by the time we saw him next. He made overnight stops in New Market and Cloverdale, meeting all kinds of Hoosiers wanting to meet the kid walking for Tyler. Aaron would surpass his $10,000 goal within the first 12 hours of his walk. 

"It brought us to tears," said Tony Trent. “Gosh, what an incredible young man. To sacrifice three days of his life to walk 100 miles.
"What I love is that it's that same spirit Tyler had," said Kelly Trent. "In the face of adversity, you're going to persevere, you're going to keep going and you're going to smile."

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