On Wednesday evening and early Thursday morning, many residents in the Ford County/Gray County area grew concerned over a man walking down Highway 50 toward Cimarron in the heat with a stroller. It wasn’t until you get a closer look at a sign reading “Walk Across America” sitting on the young man’s stroller that you realize there’s no baby in the stroller, but instead a large ray of hope.

It all began in 2015 when now 28-year-old Sebastien Jacques, who played tennis at Virginia Tech, became very sick and was only able to walk 15 minutes a day.

“I had a tumor in the center of my brain, which no one wanted to do surgery on. Doctors would say it was too risky and they really weren’t sure of the cause, and that meant that I wouldn’t have a life anymore, so I was willing to take the risk,” said Jacques. “The doctors just told me that I needed to learn how to live that way, so I did some research and found a new surgeon in California. Then in California, the surgeon said they performed that surgery 5 to 10 times a year, and they told me I should be back to normal after surgery, so I decided to go to California.”

Now, 2 years later, Jacques still feels more appreciative than ever to be alive, and wants to personally thank his surgeon once again.

“I’m trying to do it in 5 months or so. It’s a lot of walking, but through my health issues, all I could do was go at it 1 day at a time, and that’s what I’m doing here also,” said Jacques. “Whether you’re going through tough times, if you want to accomplish something big, just go at it 1 day at a time.”

Jacques says that his goal each day is to walk 25 miles, Kansas being the halfway marker. He began his adventure in April.

“I started at Virginia Beach cause I wanted to go through Virginia Tech where my health issues started and finish in Santa Monica where the surgeon is. I actually started back in my hometown, Magog, then walked in Montreal and Quebec City, like the main cities because before I had brain surgery, we got to raise money. We ended up raising $110,000 in 3 weeks, and it was mainly raised back home, so I wanted to start and finish the walk back home. I did 200 miles in the main cities, now I’m walking across America and finishing back in my hometown.”

Through his entire journey so far, Jacques says that the people of southwest Kansas have shown the most hospitality.

“I have been hosted by a family every day this last week,” said Jacques. “The difference with other states I’d say is here, whenever someone would host me, they would ask where I was going next and contact their friend who lived there, so many people helped me out along the way.”

On Wednesday evening, Jacques stayed in Cimarron before heading to his awaiting host in Garden City on Thursday.

One unexpected outcome that Jacques has gotten out of this adventure is an amazing amount of encouraging and inspiring messages from people all over the country.

“It’s been amazing in the states, people have been really nice following me on social media and sending me messages and stuff, and that’s the coolest part of it,” he said. “I started getting messages from people who shared some touching stories. There was one woman who was thinking about suicide and didn’t see the point in living, she reached out and told me that my concept of living 1 day at a time really helped her.”

Jacques, who was seen passing through Cimarron on Thursday morning, is anxious to finally meet the man who gave him another chance at life.

“I’m pretty excited to finish the walk there and thank him again,” said Jacques. “I thanked him after surgery cause I knew I was okay, I felt better even though I had just had my skull opened. Now, I’m going to be able to thank him and say ‘you helped me, and now I’m trying to help people, so you helped more than just me.’”

Jacques says that he will be taking the day off today and spending it in Garden City. He encourages everyone to follow him online on the rest of his journey to California by visiting http://sebastienjacques.com/en/the-5000-km-walk or following him on Twitter or Facebook at @iamsebjacques.

To contact the writer of this story, email egarcia@dodgeglobe.com.