While walking about 3,000 miles across the country, B.J. Timoner stopped every time he saw something purple on the side of the road and took it as a sign he was on the right path.
Purple is the color that represents the fight against pancreatic cancer -- the reason for his walk.
Tuesday, Timoner took the final steps of a journey that's taken him from California to Long Island. A Manhattan native, Timoner began his trip at the Santa Monica Pier on Jan. 2 to raise money for the Bethpage-based Lustgarten Foundation, which funds pancreatic cancer research. He's raised about $50,000 since 2011.
Timoner's father died of pancreatic cancer at 41, when Timoner was only 5. Now 43, he remains inspired to help in the fight against the disease. "I wish he was here today," he said.
Timoner, who now lives in Albuquerque, N.M., made a stop at the Cablevision office in Bethpage Tuesday morning, where he was greeted by the cheers of about 200 onlookers, including Cablevision and Lustgarten Foundation employees.
Cablevision, the parent company of Newsday, underwrites the Lustgarten Foundation's administrative costs, and donations are to be used solely to fund pancreatic cancer research.
Timoner then walked to Jones Beach, where he put his feet in the water, marking the end of his journey.
Since January, Timoner has walked eight to 10 hours daily while carrying a 60-pound backpack. At night, he would camp along the highway or stay with strangers. His route took him from California, through New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York.
"The biggest obstacle is the monotony of doing it every day," Timoner said. "It's lonely."
This is the second cross-country walk that Timoner has completed. During his first walk in 2011, he suffered a heart attack and was forced to finish in Myrtle Beach, S.C., instead of New York. His desire to finish the walk in New York was one reason he did it a second time.
Some who turned out to see Timoner said he was an inspiration.
Rose Tullo, 49, of Lindenhurst lost her mom to pancreatic cancer in 2009 and was in Bethpage to cheer Timoner on. She participates in the Pancreatic Cancer Research Walk every year.
"He [Timoner] helps keep me going," she said.
Each year, about 45,000 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, said Kerri Kaplan, executive director of the Lustgarten Foundation. The five-year survival rate is 6 percent.
"People have innovative ways to raise money," she said. "But we don't have anyone else who walks across America."