Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Walking The Walk- Stories from 'Walk Season"

The term "Walk Season" itself sounds kind of funny if you don't work for a charity like the Arthritis Foundation that hosts a 5K Walk. Especially for our charity when we encourage walking, exercising or moving 30 minutes everyday in some way to keep arthritis pain at bay. However, I'd bet my first born child that if you were never employed to coordinate a walk, at least you've been to one or volunteered at one. There seems to be one on every weekend for every cause under the sun! It's become a cultural fund-raising phenomenon!

"Walk Season" for me is the period of time that begins about three months before a walk fund-raiser and includes the week or two after as you work to expedite sponsor, donor, and volunteer thank yous and wrap-up the registration administration details. It's a period of time that can be excruciatingly busy/crazy for staff and volunteers alike leading up to the walk. And then, after 4 short hours of hundreds of people descending on you with smiles, bouncing happy children with painted faces, paparazzi like photos, cheers, laughs, hugs and moving stories......and then suddenly as quickly as everyone descended....they go home. It's all over in less than half a day!

So now, about a month after our walks, I'm left feeling like I've lost part of my family because I'm not seeing my volunteer committee weekly. They do become like a second family, good friends that work for free to help support your mission because it's important to them or they just want to make the world a better place. I don't think all of them realize how much they mean to us individually but especially as a whole.

We were very happy with the results of "Let's Move Together Walk" in Lakeland and Orlando! I couldn't have loved either of my committees more if humanly possible. So many fun stories, sub events, memories.

They pulled of miracles and made us laugh at the office (Especially the 'Sell the Hays"-sorry, inside joke for most of you) and consistently touched us with their kindness and understanding our humanity as employees on a small staff of two in a crazy economy. And our honorees! They shared their personal stories and did everything possible to get attention for the walk. Our honorees were just amazing. The walk goes by so quickly and unless you are really reading every e-mail, you can easily miss the most important part of the walk, in my opinion, the heart of the walk, and that is the stories of the people we are honoring.

This year, I made it my personal mission/tribute and a gesture to honor the 6 individuals that allowed us to honor them, by telling their story in written form. All of them agreed and I went to work. initially I was sad because time was slipping away and I wasn't going to be able to finish all of them until my CREATOR sent me an EARTHLY ANGEL, Lynn Knott, one of my Parrot Head of Central Florida friends, came to me and was in between jobs in the NURSING/MEDICAL field. Lynn I hope also had a beautifulk experience writing two of the stories but one of them was even published in the BALDWIN PARK MAGAZINE since the subject committee member Donna Zelahy lives there.

So we have these 6 stories that we really enjoyed telling, and in the process we grew to know these people as friends and volunteers. And it was an honor!

If you can, you would honor me by reading their stories and realizing that there are 50 million Americans that live with arthritis, and 300,000 of them are children. These are our friends, our neighbors, our families. 1 in 3 people in Central Florida live with the illness.



And then right now go and mark these two dates on your calendar if you live in Central Florida. It's the next Arthritis Foundation Family Reunion and we need EVERY ONE of you there. And this year we are finally giving you almost a year notice!

May 12th, 2012-Polk County/Lakeland Let's Move Together Arthritis Walk
May 19th, 2012-Central Florida/Orlando Let's Move Together Arthritis Walk

Lastly, if you are one of the honorees or volunteer committee members from either of our walks, please know that I already do miss seeing you! Let's stay in touch! Certainly, no matter where you live in Central Florida, our next Arthritis Foundation Central Region Family Reunion happens Saturday December 17th in Baldwin Park at the 4th Annual Jingle Bell Run/Walk. And if you just worked your butt off fund-raising at the walk, just pay the $25 admission for the shirt, food and fun and don't worry about fund-raising! Don't burn yourselves out but do please try to come to both of our events. There's a chair around our figurative event table for each of you and when you aren't there, we're still having fun....but miss you being part of it!

Peace, Love and Music
Tony in Orlando


  1. Words can not express how touched I am by you and your mom T! I love you both so much and thank God every day for bringing you both, and Mariel and Ed too, into my family's life!! I miss the committee and meetings. And I still have two more donations that I need to get to you! Those will go out in the mail Friday or Saturday, promise!

  2. Serving as a chair for charity walk has more rewards than ever imagined. I am thankful for the friendships that I have made along the way. Tony- THANK YOU for all you have done for our Arthritis Family! You are one of a kind and THANK YOU!!