Falmouth High School junior William Addison has completed his solo fundraising hike of the Appalachian Trail. Contributed / William Addison

The day 15-year-old William Addison left his home in Falmouth last June to hike the Appalachian Trail, he had 2,000 miles and a fundraising goal of $2,000 ahead of him. In October, he had blown past the initial fundraising goal and a second, raising $28,000 by the time he reached the southern end of the trail.

Addison, who has hemophilia, set out on the solo hike to raise money for Save One Life, a nonprofit that provides resources for people with blood disorders in developing countries.

“Their cause really hit home for me,” Addison said.

He officially finished the entire trail last weekend, hiking 5 miles from the base of Mount Katahdin to the peak, the northernmost part of the Appalachian trail that he wasn’t able to hike early last June when Baxter State Park was closed because of the pandemic.

Save One Life told Addison last fall that the $25,000 he had raised up to that point was used to sponsor 60 children, provide 25 scholarships, help 25 families start a small business, and send 125 shipments of medication to bleeding disorder patients across the globe.

Hemophilia is a blood disorder where essential proteins called factors, which cause blood to clot, are lacking. When hemophiliacs are cut or hurt, they often won’t stop bleeding without medical intervention. The disease is more common among men. Addison is the fourth generation of his family with hemophilia.

According to the National Hemophilia Foundation, roughly 20,000 people have the disease in the U.S and 400,000 people suffer from it worldwide. Seventy-five percent do not have access to proper care, mostly in developing countries.

Addison, who has been on multiple overnight hiking trips with his Boy Scout troop for the past five years, said his hemophilia never got in the way of his goal.

“The only difference between me and someone without hemophilia is that I had some extra supplies in my backpack,” he said.

He figured out a treatment schedule ahead of time and took regular doses of medication on the trail. Addison’s mom, Victoria Kuhn, said she and her husband met up with Addison many times along his hike to resupply him with medicine, food and a charged battery pack.

A satellite tracking device enabled Addison to send messages to his family if cell service wasn’t available, and he had an SOS button for a search team and helicopter to come find him if he got lost or hurt. Luckily, he said, he never had to push the button.

As for the mental and physical exhaustion of the AT hike, “you can’t really prepare for that,” he said. “It was very lonely in the beginning.”

The first few weeks were physically taxing as well, due to New England’s terrain.

“He migrated from saying, ‘hike the AT,’ to ‘let’s get to the New Hampshire border,’ to ‘get to the Vermont border,'” Kuhn said.

Addison said he repeated to himself a phrase used by many AT hikers: Never quit on a bad day.

William Addison poses at McAfee Knob in Virginia, one of the most photographed spots on the Appalachian Trail Contributed / William Addison

“I remember watching as he began his trip southbound and getting a message from him that he was three days in and hadn’t seen another person since the moment he started,” said Addison’s Boy Scout troop leader, Andrew Kinley. “Although it never got easier, he always found a way to just go one more day.”

Addison said he came across a total of four southbound hikers on his four-month journey. In higher numbers were black bears and rattlesnakes, which, he said, didn’t give him any trouble. Mosquitos, in season when he started, proved to be the worst part. Even with a bug net, they got into his tent, he said.

When school began in September, Addison was still hiking and had to miss the beginning of the year. Prior to the trip, he discussed his plans with his guidance counselor and vice principal at Falmouth High School, who gave him a pass for missing school because his  journey counted as experiential learning, he said.

“My parents wouldn’t have let me go if I hadn’t been able to miss school,” he said.

He hasn’t put away his hiking boots. Currently finishing up his junior year, Addison plans to hike the New Hampshire 48, a series of peaks in the state, as well as the Long Trail, which stretches from the Canadian border to the Vermont-Massachusetts border, taking him 300 miles through the Green Mountains, all while continuing to raise money for Save One Life.

Follow William on his journey on the Save One Life webpage, as well as on Facebook.

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