You likely won't find too many 18-year-olds who would consider themselves huge fans of Benjamin Franklin.
You also won't find too many 18-year-olds who have raised more than $11,000 for the Eagles Autism Foundation.
Alex Greenberg did just that to champion his cousin, Max, who is on the autism spectrum.
"Max is a good example of the abilities we all possess, despite whatever labels might be put on us," Alex said. "Whenever I see him, it brings me nothing but joy, and I think I speak for all of our family members when I say that. One thing that we can all learn from people like Max is that there's so many things that they're capable of."
A native of Princeton, New Jersey, Alex searched for a way to combine his admiration for his cousin, his affinity for one of the country's Founding Fathers – "I remember just picking up the biography one day that Walter Isaacson wrote and having read through it and asking yourself, 'What hasn't this guy done?'", and his passion for the Eagles. About a year ago, he decided that he wanted to walk the 50-mile trail that Franklin took when he crossed from New Jersey into Pennsylvania in 1723 upon his move from Boston to Philadelphia as a 17-year-old. Back in the spring, Alex started fundraising with all of the proceeds going to EAF.
Alex shared the donation link with friends, family, and, well, anyone he connected with. At times, he grew frustrated with the results, but he refused to get discouraged because he reminded himself of his why – his cousin.
"I really feel nothing but inspired, inspired by someone who can just keep going and show so much positivity in the face of his challenges," Alex said of Max.
The perseverance paid off as the dollars started to trickle in. After reaching $5,000 in September, the donations doubled in the weeks leading up to the hike. It was Franklin who once said, "the good we can do together exceeds the good we can do individually."
On Tuesday, October 3, Alex and Max began their trip in New Brunswick, New Jersey along with Max's dad, Kenny. They traversed more than 16 miles on the first day along the Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park Trail, proudly sporting EAF gear in Giants territory. Alex's dad, Jeff, joined them on Wednesday when they tacked on another 16 miles. On Friday morning, the group – which now included Alex's brother, Adam – kicked off the final day on the aptly named Ben Franklin Bridge as they powered through the final eight miles or so, taking a detour through some of the famous Franklin landmarks in the Old City section of Philadelphia and arriving at their final destination – Lincoln Financial Field – just after 1 PM.
Three hundred years to the day after Franklin arrived in Philadelphia to start a new chapter of his life, one that would forever alter the city, Alex, Max, and their family members put a bow on their own historic achievement that was months in the making. As Alex sat on the sidewalk, tending to his sore feet, he couldn't help but watch in astonishment as Max's boundless energy had him dancing and jumping as if the expedition was just getting started.
"Of course, I'm proud of him, but I have to say I'm not really surprised because we all know his abilities," Alex said. "We all know what he's capable of and it far surpasses anyone physically in the rest of our family, for sure."