By Pat Pratt
Most of us have at some point in life have sought a new horizon. We may have enrolled in a class we always wanted to take or started a new hobby.
And then there is Jesse Larios, of California, who donned a life-size anime bear costume and pawed it across America.
In 2021, Larios, known to his thousands of social media followers and friends as Bearsun, set out to walk the full length of the nation from Los Angeles to New York City. This year, he decided to make the same trek in reverse. On Friday, his 27th day of running west from the Big Apple, he passed through St. Jacob, Troy and Collinsville on his way to St. Louis.
He’s raised money for a number of worthy causes along the way – mental health, disabilities, cancer, the environment – but he says it’s not any one single thing that compelled him to undertake this odyssey.
“It kind of helped me kind of put everything together,” Bearsun said. “I didn’t really have any purpose. To create art, that was it. I just wanted to bring my character to life. It’s a mixture of a bunch of stuff, I can’t just say it’s this or this.”
Trekking across the country would be no easy feat for anyone, let alone doing it in a bear costume, which per his self-issued rules, he can not take off while running. Thus, Bearsun has met several challenges along the way.
On his way to Highland, where he stayed Thursday night, he accidentally got off his route and almost ended up on Interstate 70. Then there’s the physical pain, the loneliness, the unfamiliarity, the cold and other inclement weather.
“It takes a lot of mental focus, a lot of concentration to keep yourself calm, to not think about it,” Bearsun said. “You kind of have to let go of everything. You have to let go of pain, let go of love, let go of hate, everything. You’re pushing your body to the limits. Same thing with your mind.”
Throughout his journey, Bearsun’s fans have found inspiration in him. He has no sponsorship and his journey is funded entirely by grassroots donations. His Facebook page, I Am Bearsun, is filled with gratitudes, messages of hope and other kind words. On his way through Madison County, many well-wishers stopped for photos or just to thank him for what he is doing.
“I just wanted to write a story, that was it,” Bearsun said. “I want it to be about humanity. When you look at my character, that’s what I want it to symbolize. A person being a human.”