By Lisa Petrillo

MIAMI BEACH (CBSMiami) – Mark Wylie, who has worked for Best Buddies for more than 30 years advocating for disability rights, has been doing a lot of walking around his Miami Beach neighborhood lately.

“485 days today, that I’ve been walking consistently,” he said.

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It all started when COVID shutdowns began.  As a gay, single, Black man he said he felt alone and scared.

“George Floyd had just been murdered, COVID had hit really hard, and I’m sitting in my apartment, and you know I’m working from home and I’m alone and I felt that I was caged,” said Wylie.

So one day, before dawn, he got out, started walking, and discovered things he’d never noticed before.

“I was able to take these walks and inspire myself and it came from within. So, by doing that, I found this passion for walking,” Wylie explained.  “I would walk further and further every day and I would discover the beach.  I started writing things like ‘belief’ and ‘kindness’.”

He would get to the beach just before sunrise and write a positive thought in the sand, take a photo of it and post it. Soon, his mantra #walkwithwylie was born.

“It’s amazing how many people that I’ve met that really embrace the mornings. They’re very spiritual about it, but it’s also a very cleansing way to recharge and reconnect with oneself.  It’s such a wonderful thing I get to do every day.” he said.

Wylie, who back in 2006, lost more than 120 pounds on the TV show “The Biggest Loser” has always struggled with his weight and walking has helped in many ways.

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“I always find that every day, with walking, it’s like a little bit of a victory, and I find that when I’m able to get out in the morning, I’m able to carry that with me throughout the day,” he explained.

Now he has turned that victory into a business. He’s created #walkwithwylie greeting cards that are now for sale on his website.

“I did a limited edition of the Miami Beach collection, that’s out, and I just got my holiday cards yesterday,” he said.

Recently on the beach, Wylie and Lisa Petrillo both wrote meaningful messages in the sand, he wrote ‘grateful’ while she wrote ‘family’.

“It pays tribute and honor to your family that means a lot to you,” he said.

“Yes it does,” said Petrillo.

As the sea washed their messages away, Wylie said that’s all good too.

“It’s like a reset. Almost to like a deep cleansing and we get to do this every day and I always write it’s a new day,” he said.

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Mark Wylie will be showing his work during Art Week at ‘Le Art Noir Diversity in Color’ at The African Heritage Cultural Arts Center in Miami on December 3rd through 5th.

Lisa Petrillo