You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Fri, Apr 12, 2013 : 10:04 a.m.

Michigan Stiltwalker starts his trek across the state Friday from downtown Ann Arbor

By Amy Biolchini

As dawn broke Friday morning in Ann Arbor, Neil Sauter, 29, of Blissfield strapped his legs on to a pair of stilts and started walking.

Sauter, who calls himself the “Michigan Stiltwalker” started his three-day-long hike to Lansing from the front steps of the downtown branch of the Ann Arbor District Library. Though the weather was damp, drizzling at times and about 36 degrees, Sauter walked on.

Wearing long maize-and-blue striped pants that extended over the stilts and gave him the appearance of a 9-foot-tall giant, Sauter started at a brisk pace of about 4 mph.

During Satuer’s “Walk for No Limits” tour, he’ll be fundraising for the non-profit agency, United Cerebral Palsy of Michigan. This is his second walk to date; the first of which he did in 2008 when he raised $85,000 for the foundation by walking 830 miles across the entire state.

Sauter has a mild form of cerebral palsy, which causes his feet to turn inwards when he walks.

The stilts help him to walk in the same way that his leg braces did.

“I’m more coordinated on stilts,” Sauter said. “Stilts help me walk better, but for most people it would be a burden.”

He developed the idea for the fundraising “Walk for No Limits” in 2008 when he was looking for something he could do to help the foundation that gave him a scholarship to Grand Valley State University.

In the five years since his 2008 walk, Sauter has attended graduate school at Michigan State University and started a family. He walks on stilts at fairs and festivals as a profession.

“I like adventure,” Sauter said. “It took a little while to get the logistics worked out to leave my life behind for a little while.”

This year, Sauter will be breaking down his walks into weekend segments and focusing more on more populated areas.

Traveling back roads by himself, Sauter said the walks are peaceful and give him a chance to enjoy Michigan’s beauty.

He doesn’t travel with music so he can constantly pay attention to traffic and the road conditions.

Navigating potholes and uneven surfaces on stilts can be challenging at times even for Sauter, who began stilt-walking in 2007 and does it professionally as an entertainer.

“Generally, people are really friendly to me along the way. They think it’s kind of cool to see,” Sauter said. “People were really trustful (in 2008). People offered to drive my backpack ahead for me … if you give people the opportunity to do the right thing, they usually do.”

In 2008, Sauter fell nine times on his “Walk for No Limits” tour.

This year, Sauter said he modified his stilts to make part of the leg brace more secure - but it also means it will be harder on his legs.

Sauter said his trips are broken into increments that average 22 miles per day. In the mornings, he travels at about 4 mph but by the afternoon when he’s tired, his pace is closer to 3 mph.

From Ann Arbor, he’ll follow Pontiac Trail most of the way to South Lyon for lunch and then end in Brighton. Sauter will begin his Saturday walk at 7 a.m. at Brighton Library, traveling through Howell to Fowlerville for the night.

Sunday morning, Sauter will leave Fowlerville to travel through Williamston and Okemos before ending in Lansing.

He has planned four other walks in April and May throughout other parts of Michigan:

  • April 19-21 Midland to Flint
  • April 26-29 Muskegon to Grand Rapids
  • May 3-5 Petoskey to Traverse City
  • May 10-12 Escanaba to Marquette

People can donate to Sauter’s cause in multiple ways: Through a secure online website, by handing him a donation when he walks by or through a series of dine-to-donate events. In 2008, Sauter said he raised $20,000 of the total $85,000 from people that handed him cash along his route.

Specific Bob Evans location on certain days will donate 15 percent of the sale of a meal when diners present special printed fliers, available for download online.

In Ann Arbor, the Bob Evans at 2411 Carpenter Road will honor the fundraising flier from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday only.

Watch Sauter don his stilts and take off from Ann Arbor Friday morning:

Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for Reach her at (734) 623-2552, or on Twitter.



Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 4:55 p.m.

Two full days since posting, and only one comment (beside this one). Sorry not to see more encouragement for this remarkable young man. You rock, Neil Sauter.


Fri, Apr 12, 2013 : 4:58 p.m.

What a guy!