22 and You is a hike built to strengthen the community and encourage veterans and first responders struggling with mental health to seek help and strive for positive change. Our founder, John Preston, a Marine combat veteran and professional firefighter, tragically lost his older brother Michael (Marine and Police Officer) to suicide in 2016.
John set out to make a difference by putting his own body and well-being on the line with the intention to save the lives of others who may find themselves in similar situations as his brother. Carrying a 50-lb (22-kg) pack, John walked more than 600 miles down the coast of California from Palo Alto to San Diego, which took 28 days of walking 22+ miles a day.
The struggles and challenges were beyond belief as he decimated his body for the love of his older brother. Thousands met John along the way to share their story and walk along his side. Later when his body began to fail, many people moved by John’s story showed up to literally help him carry the weight of his pack to ensure he made it successfully down the coast. The experience of the hike with all of its intensity and almost insurmountable obstacles have led us to today.
On October 11, 2023 John and his wife Cory (retired San Francisco Firefighter) will walk the East Coast an estimated 704 miles. The hike will span from Parris Island, South Carolina (Marine Corps Recruit Depot) where his brother’s ashes are spread, through their hometown in Warsaw, Kentucky and finally ending in Cincinnati, Ohio where Preston will set the pack down for good on Veterans Day November 11, 2023.
“We are bringing this home… we have to bring this home. Thousands were at Michael’s funeral and they need their opportunity to close this chapter, to honor my brother in the purest of ways, at our side, in unity, with love.”
“We have seen the impact that this can have on people, and we want to share this experience to reach as many people as we can. There is a love and a light that we can all find within ourselves, and we will both be here to show what can be done if you just believe.”
The Film: "Carry the Weight"
Prior to the hike, John spent many years of his life documenting his journey from the war in Iraq to his hard-fought rise in the music industry. John had several top 200 songs as a Sony recording artist highlighting topics such as mental health awareness and was in the public spotlight as an advocate for veteran and first responder mental health prior to losing his brother Michael. The magic of the hike was born from the rubble of John’s broken heart and was thoroughly documented with compelling footage. Now with Executive Producer Paul Sadowski (Full Range Films), the filming of the four-part series of John’s journey entitled “Carry the Weight” will conclude by capturing John and Cory’s next 700 miles. The Prestons have chosen to share their family’s personal story and show vulnerability for those who cannot in the hope of helping to inspire lasting change for the special people that make up our first responder and veteran communities. The series will reach so many and resonate with anyone that has struggled with or been affected by a battle with mental health.
The give back
From October 11th through November 11th while the hike is in motion and capturing the most attention possible, 22 and You will be raising funds for veteran and first responder nonprofits.