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A Purgatory Path: From LAist Straight To 'Hell Walk'

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In 1983, new-wavers Missing Persons famously sang that "nobody walks in LA." Events like the Wilshire Walk valiantly challenge this adage (we've spotlighted plenty of local hikes ourselves!) with enthusiastic inner circles, but fall on largely deaf ears. For the vast majority of Angelenos, walking is hell. On May 1, former LAist Film Editor Josh Tate aims to make up for all who stay in their cars - and raise $25,000 for the charity Children's Hope Chest - with the first Hell Walk. His Herculean task is a purgatory path 100 feet in length - which he'll walk for 24 hours straight. Alone.

To answer your first question, yes, this is crazy. "[Children's Hope Chest] CEO, Tom Davis, actually started laughing when I explained the idea to him," said Tate. "Incidentally, that is not an unusual reaction." Tate may have his tongue in his cheek, but his motivation is sincere: "The absurdity of walking in a tiny circle from sunrise to sunrise reflects the same absurdity that affects far too many people. Equally, the suffering felt by the person walking in a circle for hours on end mirrors the suffering that those in need endure every day."

Suffering is right; Tate's training regimen is dead serious. Weekdays, before and after his full-time job at Bad Robot, he does hours on the treadmill and reps with a trainer. Weekends? "I go to the track at USC and just walk for as long as I can. I usually go for 4-6 hours, but eventually plan to raise that up to about 8 hours." While it's no cake walk, Tate fears the physical toil will be the easy part: "You can only train so much. I wake up in the middle of the night all the time thinking about what it is going to be like when I am in my sixteenth straight hour of walking, it's the middle of the night, and I'm virtually all alone."

But all that torture serves a greater good. Hell Walk's $25,000 goal will build a kitchen for orphans in Swaziland and sponsor another 30 orphans in Russia. Steering the money towards a fully transparent project is key to Tate. "When I first started talking to Children's Hope Chest, I stressed that I wanted to do something very specific for them so that the money wasn't just going to go into a general fund, and they have been extraordinarily accommodating with allowing me to implement my own plan." Every drop of sweat & every dollar of Hell Walk will go straight to those orphans.

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Accountability is a cornerstone of Hell Walk, and as with the rest of the project, Tate pushes it far beyond what most of us would consider reasonable. There are dozens of charity walks, but Hell Walk's goal is to "build something where there was a real, everyday narrative to it." A small media empire ensures every step of Tate's training is accounted for. He tweets his daily progress (129 days and counting), while his Hell Walk blog features more detailed accounts of training challenges (while we were futzing over Valentine's Day plans, he burned 10,000 calories in a week). On May 1st, the entire Hell Walk will be broadcast live, start to finish. Until then, there are a series of Hell Walk videos, mini tours of the city that prove Missing Persons wrong and serve as a reminder of how exciting it is that such vastly different neighborhoods exist so close together.

While many charities struggle with how to best embrace emerging platforms, these are Hell Walk's bread and butter, and the key to its success. "The first person to donate on the website was a friend of mine from high school that I hadn't seen in twenty years," Tate says in awe. "It's amazing. The biggest supporters of Hell Walk are people that are not actively involved in my life, but are excited to read about what is going on and want to help."

That last remark is telling. Although Hell Walk is an individual exercise, it'll take an army and a small miracle to beat back the brimstone. Tate reveals the best way to help: "All I ever ask of anyone is to stop by and read about what I've been doing. If you like it, I'd love for people just to tell their friends about it. If they really like it and they can afford a small donation to Hell Walk, I'd be so immensely grateful. And I'll probably send you something cool in the mail." He smiles. "Everyone loves getting cool shit in the mail, don't they?"