Amputee Walks Over 1,500 Miles in US for Positive Message

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Julio Montoya, whose right leg was amputated below the knee due to a landmine explosion in the jungles of Peru, could be called a "walking machine."

Instead of overwhelming him, this personal tragedy made him decide to begin walking journeys with five goals in mind: 1) To spread and to stimulate the spirit of achievement in youth and the disabled; 2) to motivate and encourage society to accept persons with disabilities as they are and value them for who they really are; 3) to count on the support of large and small companies in providing the jobs that will allow the disabled to forge their futures; 4) to create the Foundation for Training and Development of the Handicapped of Latin America; and 5) to form a bond between the youth and persons with disabilities in our communities.

Montoya, a Peruvian citizen in his mid-30s, walked the coasts of Ecuador, Peru, and Chile. He then turned to the United States and walked from Boston, Massachusetts, to Miami, Florida, a journey of about four months, ending in late October 2004. Montoya had received medical care at Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and because of his South American walks, he was invited to be part of its graduation ceremony. Montoya then decided to use the remaining months on his visa to carry his message over 1,500 miles down the East Coast of the US.

Hospitality Along the Way

He had no sponsorship, and all along the way, generous people and organizations provided food, shelter, and support. He gained friends, pins, state flags, and great experiences.

However, in Marion, South Carolina, someone saw Montoya changing his prosthesis and thought he was undressing, according to a story in Clarendon Today (Clarendon County, South Carolina; www.clarendontoday.com, September 23, 2004). Police were called; Montoya was arrested and spent two days in jail. However, the incident had a positive result: his residual limb had become badly infected, and after authorities realized their mistake, he was taken to a hospital for treatment paid for by the city of Marion.

After Montoya reached Miami, Mayor Manny Diaz and Peruvian Consul Jorge E. Roman Morey accompanied him as he ended his marathon trip by walking from South Bayshore Drive to Miami's City Hall via Pan American Drive. A proclamation presentation was then made in his honor.  "I want to be an inspiration for the physically challenged, especially teenagers," Montoya told Clarendon Today. "Some people kill themselves after they have a problem. They think that after accidents, their lives are over. I am here to show them that they are not, and they can achieve anything they want."

For more information, visit Julio Montoya's website: http://www.caminoalfuturo.org