On April 24, 2019, at the end of the first season of his podcast, Jason Peters, a Philly journalist and host of the 2100 podcast, made a promise. If his podcast amassed 15,000 downloads, he’d walk from Philadelphia to Atlantic City.
“It was a pipe dream at the time,” said Peters.
Fast forward to this past Friday and Peters, a South Philly resident, was wearing a pair of very comfortable Skechers walking shoes at Cherry Street Pier.
“The only thing I did to prep was I bought these shoes,” said Peters. “I looked at blogs for, like, three minutes.”
The Skechers, of course, were bought to prepare for the walk. Peters has since blown by his 15,000 download goal.
“We’re way above that,” he said. “I’m beyond 40,000 and I decided I was going to take the walk and rather than doing it for no reason at all, I’d do it for a cause.”
That’s where Carlos Aponte, executive director of We Love Philly, comes in.
“Jason had the idea [for the walk], and then he came to me,” said Aponte. “I think he needed words of encouragement because I’m the positive guy and I was like, well if you’re asking me, I think we should make it about education and get the students involved.”
After conferring with Aponte, Peters decided to do the walk to raise awareness and money for We Love Philly, which is a nonprofit organization that runs a high school accredited program designed to empower students using their content creation, mindfulness and community volunteerism and community engagement skills.
On top of that, Aponte decided to join Peters on his walk.
“I told Carlos and he was, like, ‘I’ll walk with you. Let’s do it together,’ ” said Peters.
We Love Philly was looking specifically to raise $30,000 for an initiative called Project Ownership. The money is aimed at purchasing a shipping container, which will be turned into a house. Students in the Project Ownership class will list the house on Airbnb and take care of it each semester.
“The students will do all the work, maintain it, use it to make money, learn about ownership, the value of property and all of that in the process,” said Aponte. “It’s teaching real-life skills to people.”
So on Friday evening at 6, Peters and Aponte departed the Cherry Street Pier on foot and headed to the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. They walked about 15 miles that night, another 21 on Saturday and finished up the rest of the 62-mile trip on Sunday as they dipped their feet into the Atlantic Ocean.
“It was freezing,” Aponte said, anticlimactically, in a post-walk interview with SPR Monday morning.
Among the people greeting them at the beach were several students from We Love Philly and a drumline.
Aponte and Peters spent Sunday night at Peters’ shorehouse.
“I told Carlos I’m not leaving the house today,” Peters said Monday. Peters added that the hardest part of the trip was the last 5 miles, during which they could see the high-rise hotels and casinos but were still relatively far away.
“It’s absolutely brutal because you’re so close yet so far,” said Peters.
By the end of the trip, We Love Philly had raised $12,800 toward its $30,000 goal.
There were only a handful of hiccups throughout the trip. For instance, the shoes Peters purchased for the trip turned out to be less than ideal.
“Both my feet are entirely covered in blisters,” he said. Peters tweeted out that he’d pay $100 plus the cost of new shoes to anyone who brought him sneakers during the trip. Within a few hours, a 25-year-old named Luke Benato arrived with a pair of New Balance running shoes on Saturday evening.
The only other hiccup was when a “crazy person,” as Peters put it, pulled a knife on him and Aponte as they were walking past The Lamp Motel along White Horse Pike.
“It was just a crazy person,” said Peters. “We scurried away.”
Above all, Peters and Aponte are mostly happy the whole event is now behind them.
“Yesterday was a series of accomplishments,” said Peters. “We walked a marathon [on the last day of the walk], which neither of us have ever done. I was just happy to get it over with.”