Sunday, April 26, 2009

We Walked the Walk

The Orlando Walk to Defeat ALS is now history. Derrol and I turned in our pledge monies, although we still have a week to collect more donations if anyone is so inclined. I can't begin to tell you how important this event was. First of all it was an especially fun event and Lake Eola was a perfect venue. (See photo)

Everthing was so well organized and beautifully orchestrated. Even the parking went well and we were within a few steps of the activities. Volunteers appeared at just the right moment, helping the more than 1300 walkers with parking, check-in, food distribution, shirt sales, giving directions, shouting encouragement, and spreading the warmth and love that infiltrate the whole ALS Association.

It was so much more than we expected. Everything was donated and we had the most amazing live entertainment in the band shell by the lake. Corporate sponsors such as A&T really rose to the occasion. We have fallen for the jazz group Buzzcatz. Derrol played in a dance band years ago. He was a trumpet man, and we both appreciated hearing live brass.

Chick Fillet and Firehouse Subs and Domino Pizza provided food before the official walk kicked off And those Italian ices served at the end of the walk were a new taste treat for us. We walked around Lake Eola. It was difficult to stride for the finish line because everything was so beautiful. We wanted to stroll, to linger, to soak in the beauty of the foliage, admire the pagoda picnic area, and just enjoy this little oasis in the center of Orlando. It is surrounded by high rise businesses and condos. Yet a street lined with old houses now converted into law offices anchor the city to its glorious past. Such beautiful and diverse architecture.

Along the walk route signs had been posted giving statistics about the disease, encouragement and promoting the sponsors. And, at various spots along the walk route groups of red-shirted volunteers shouted out encouragement and cheered for us. The cheers were for so much more than finishing a walk. It is only a warm up of the cheers we'll all be giving when a cause, treatment or cure is found for this horrid disease.

Perhaps the best part was seeing all of those people and mingling in a crowd that accepts us just the way we are. Derrol felt so free of judgment and pity as he wheeled through the crowd and we felt like everyone supported each other no matter what color T-shirts they wore. There is a lot about using a wheelchair that we didn't expect -- opening doors, tires and sand, and the people who don't want him near them. But at the Walk he didn't worry about any of those things.

I wish I had the ability to organize and persevere and pull off such a delightful event with such a worthwhile cause at the heart of it. And do it on a shoestring! Looking at the faces around us I didn't see any half-full cups. What I saw was hope and a celebration of life. I hope the organizers drank their own cups full on the joy they brought about.

We needed that outing. We needed to know we aren't alone. And we needed to know that something is being done. We who usually feel so helpless are doing something to help find a cure and end this disease.

Derrol and I are still fizzing with the adrenalin and endorphins raised by joining with others in a worthy cause. If you have a chance to participate in such an event, no matter what the disease or worthy cause, do it. Connecting with others is the best medicine!