Here at the Chester County Food Bank, our dedicated staff is a crucial component of our mission to end food insecurity in our communities. Each member of our team brings a set of skills, a whole lot of passion and a unique story to the table. One of the more incredible stories belongs to our director of development, Norman Horn. Norm has been with us for just over two years, and his journey to our offices was, quite literally, a long and winding one.
Norm grew up in the Philadelphia area, attended Penn State and graduated with a degree in kinesiology in 2008. He started his career as a life coach, weight loss specialist and personal trainer. After a few years, he began looking for a change and wanted to make a career move without having to attend grad school. He figured that while he was exploring his next career steps, he should do something adventurous and charitable with his time. Slowly, an idea began to form: he decided to walk across the entire United States to raise money for children’s cancer research, a cause he became passionate about while volunteering with Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital.
“Little did I know that this would set the course for my career,” Norm said.
He moved to Southern California in 2013 in preparation for this huge undertaking. He spent his time setting up the business end of his nonprofit, Coast 2 Coast FTK (For The Kids), which meant building a website, applying for 501(c)3 status and working with a public relations firm. He also began to build up his body for the arduous journey ahead. “In addition to being a personal trainer, I was also a running coach,” he said.
We met Norm during that period, while he was working on obtaining corporate and individual sponsorships to help him along the way. He reached out to CCFB, asking if food could be sent to him along his route, and while he was on the phone with our executive director, Larry Welsch, Norm asserted, “I’m going to work for you one day.”
After this year of prep, he set out on his journey, which began on April 5, 2014, and ended on October 11, 2014 (that’s 6 months and 1 week). Walking east from San Francisco all the way to Atlantic City, N.J., he covered 3,307 miles and raised $56,000 for the Penn State Student Dance Marathon and the Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital. All along his route, he gained media attention and had friends and strangers join him for shorter legs of the trip. Though he says the temporary companionship was nice, he purposefully wanted to tackle the entire journey on his own.
“I thought the crazier this seemed to the media, the more popularity it would gain,” he said.
Norm averaged 25 miles on foot each day, and often spent the nights camping outdoors. During the first leg of the trip, he realized he wouldn’t be able to carry everything he needed on his back, so he purchased a jogging stroller and retrofitted it into a cross-country pushcart. The walking was strenuous, but wasn’t the hardest part.
“The physical part was something I was used to — I was up for the challenge,” Norm said. “What I didn’t realize was that people, animals and weather would be the issues. I’d always run into something that was working against me or slowing me down.”
But the hardships were part of the message of this unusual fundraising campaign.
“I wanted to show that there was nothing that would happen to me that could ever be as hard as a child or family dealing with cancer,” he said.
While Norm had prepared logistically for the trip, he hadn’t really mapped out his route. There were some long, desolate stretches through the west, but once he got further east, he encountered more people and support. The Coast 2 Coast FTK journey were picking up steam on social and traditional media, and he developed a kind of following.
After the trip ended in October, Norm applied for a position as Director of Development at Chester County Food Bank and was hired, just as he claimed he would. For the past three years, he’s brought the same focus, creativity and commitment to our mission as he did to the epic Coast 2 Coast FTK walk.
In his free time, Norm, who now resides in Phoenixville, gives inspirational talks to schools that hold marathons that mimic Thon. “I love public speaking; it’s one of my favorite things to do and I’ve been doing it for years, in fitness and nutrition, hunger relief with CCFB and for childhood cancer as well,” he said.
He recently had the opportunity for one of the highest-profile public speaking opportunities of his career: a TEDx Conference in West Chester, which took place on November 10. One of our donors at the Food Bank suggested that he apply, and after filling out the application, which was reviewed by a committee, he was selected to be one of five people to present that night. The 18-minute talk was much more formal than his usual addresses to school students, and he recruited the help of a speechwriter and a marketing team to make sure the speech was as powerful as possible in the time allotted. “If I’d had my way, I would’ve talked for two and a half hours!” Norm joked. “My message is that I’m challenging everyone to do more than their daily capacity. You have a platform of your own, hobbies interests, career and family — there’s always an opportunity for everybody to give back.”
Check out Norm’s recorded Tedx talk here.
We are so proud of Norm and the work he does within CCFB and on his own time.
Want to learn more? Sign up for our newsletter and stay connected. You can also donate food, funds and time to help us achieve our mission. Call (610) 873-6000 to speak to someone about getting involved or requesting a tour. Thanks to you, we’re growing a healthier community.
The Chester County Food Bank is the central hunger relief organization serving more than 120 food cupboards, meal sites and social service organizations throughout Chester County. We take a steadfast approach to provide food and build support in the neediest communities, while raising awareness and engagement among our community.
Photos: Coast 2 Coast FTK