~ u n i t e ~

Commrades in arms: Simone, Leesa, Dru & Mina

For almost 72 hours, my life was walking. And sleeping a little bit, but mostly walking... down highways, through towns, up trails, and along the beach. At times I could barely walk due to various aches and pains shooting through me, and then soon after, I'd be briskly walking again, laughing and chatting with someone whom minutes before I didn't know.

If anyone ever doubted the power of just plain, regular people to make a difference in the world, they need to know about events like the Avon 3 day. Over 3000 walkers and volunteers donated three days of their lives and countless hours of preparation to the Los Angeles Avon 3 Day between Oct 22 and Oct 24, 1999. The result: a net profit of over 5 million dollars to help win the fight against breast cancer.

I became involved with this spectacular event mostly because I felt a huge vacancy in my life. I didn't feel like I could look back at anything I had previously done in life and say, "That was a truly great thing I did." This vacuum was filled tenfold, a hundredfold. Have I done anything nearly as challenging? No. Or as noble? Nope. Have I ever felt so scared and unsure of myself and ended up so proud? No way. Have I ever felt so fortunate to have such supportive and terrific friends and family? No, again... I had no idea. Has the goodwill that humanity is capable of ever been so evident? Never to me...

This was also an eye-opening journey for me in ways that I couldn't have anticipated. I didn't expect to meet so many surviviors of breast cancer making the trek, and this was an excellent reminder to everyone how prevalent breast cancer is. Nor had I ever imagined that I'd meet so many people who were walking in memory of friends and loved-ones they had lost: whole families made the journey together, all wearing the same t-shirt with a picture of their departed sweetheart, mother, grandmother, sister.

I also learned to look at the concept of time way differently. For instance, it was the last day and we had about 6 miles to go. At this point we were so close to being done we were renewed by adrenaline... another 6 miles was a piece of cake. Leesa called her husband in Santa Barbara and he said he would soon be on his way to meet us in Malibu. Then it dawned on me that he was going to pass us on the way. It would take him a shorter amount of time to drive all the way down there than it would us to walk our last 6 miles!

The biggest surprise I came away with was the new found appreciation I had that I don't HAVE to walk all day, everywhere I go. That is, the 3 Day was challenging enough with the high-tech running shoes and anti-blister socks, the plentiful amounts of water, snacks, and meals provided, and the high level of physical and emotional support. But it was also a choice. I couldn't help but think of people way less fortunate than me. What if I had to walk that far just to look for work? Or get some clean water?

On my trip I was fortunate to meet a lot of neat people. I was extremely fortunate that three of them happened to walk at the exact pace of me: Mina, Leesa and Simone. You see, a lot of people asked me, "How can they run that event?" because they imagine 3000 people walking in a big clump. But it's never that way. We start out somewhat all together, but people's differences in pace naturally spread us out. You could see someone walking in the morning and never see them again all day. So even if you met someone you'd really like to talk to, a lot of times they were going too fast or slow for you. We had a fifth member, Sienna, of the posse we had formed, but she was so fast we only saw her once we were in camp. Mina was my tentmate. We met on one of the training walks in Santa Barbara before the event. It was some kind of sign-- neither of us had started training or money raising until the very last minute, so obviously neither of us had selected tentmates yet. At that time, I had only met a few other people doing the walk and everyone had already pretty much partnered off. So thank you Mina, for walking (ha-ha, literally) into my life. We had so much fun together. Although it's weird that the first adjective that came to mind was "fun." I guess I should say, thanks for helping me get through this challenge with as much fun along the way as possible. It's true that people who forge friendship under adversity have made a very uncommon bond.

Finally, this is my opportunity to thank everyone that supported me through this long and strange trip. I had such great support from my friends, family (even quite distant relatives that I've never even met!), Giancarlo's family, my co-workers at Santa Barbara City College, and even This Ascension fans:

Josephine Garrison
Frances Allen
Chris Ironhill
Gayle Baker
Marsha Roberson
Susan Jones
Patricia Dupart
Tammy Sue Martin &
Chris Shorb
Jerry Pike
Kerry Mistretta &
Dana Jakubowski
Dave & Sandy Blinman
Ronald Dinning

Benjamin Pike
Len & Anne Swartwout
Jane Nelson &
Charlie Mistretta
Arleen Gordon
Carolyn Rembold
Don & Nobu Vaughn
Wils Corrigan
Larry Vaughn
Gina Mistretta
Betty Pazich
Jim Piercey
Ken & Mary Lou

Marge Gaggs
Tony & Kathy Aragues
Barbara Woods
Joe &
Sheryl Palladino
Sheila Burnham
Anthony Saenz
Kevin Keys
DAKO Corporation
Kevin McCann
John Parker
Ronjon &
Heather Hartman
Jed Dougherty

Charles &
Emmy Seeger
Mindy Mass
Wil King
Janita Sparkman
Tess Records
Alyssa Glass
Geoff & Jacqui Cain
Ray Tucker
Paul Sutherland
Jerry Thomas

More photos | My plea for money!

"Go Walkers" written in the sand...

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