Saturday, February 4, 2012

For Zoie

They were walking in Boston in 2011 for a lot of reasons. Some walked celebrating their own survival, some walked for their friends who had battled Cancer, some walked thinking about generations to come, some walked for those they had lost; Mothers, daughters, sisters, fathers, friends or wives. To each person, as they stood at opening ceremonies, those faces that inspired them filled their minds and hearts.

The heat was oppressive, and although it may have challenged some people's resolve, it didn't break their common Mission to END BREAST CANCER. On this first day, as temperatures rose to double digit's and the humidity rose with it, it was becoming an unsafe situation. The walk was shortened and the day abbreviated. Walkers were dehydrated, and most likely some had lost some of their emotional energy in these conditions. But their commitment didn't falter.

On day 2, the day began with a brief thunderstorm. Surely these Cancer warriors must have rolled their eyes as the began a day that they could only imagine would be challenging, albeit cooler. There is a hill on day 2 in Boston called the Belmont Hill, people say it's a pretty tough hill as Boston Hills go. As they trudged up they were handed water by supporters (even in the rain). Then at the top of the hill, they saw her.

She stood quietly with tears in her eyes, holding a poster that said "My Mom Died from Breast Cancer, Keep Walking for a Cure." And her tears fell and dropped into a wide unknown ocean.

I am certain many people who saw her were forever touched to the soul. One of those was Jim Hillman. Jim says when he saw this little girl, he walked over and gave her a gentle hug. Jim knew about losing a Mother, he was walking in memory of his Mother who had lost her battle. Walking across the street he turned several times to look back at the little girl, standing meekly, quietly holding her sign with its simple plea. And he said, "It was a life changing moment." No one walking in this walk could have walked by this girl without it hitting them square in the heart. THIS is why we walk. THIS is how we can make a difference.

Later that night at camp people talked about this girl on Belmont Hill. Jim asked if anyone knew who she was, but no one did. The 1700 walkers who each started this walk with their own reasons, had another reason to continue the fight. A ripple went out from the little girls tears and it ran across everyone in Boston.

Jim posted the girl's picture on Facebook trying to find out who she was. There were no answers but the wave was growing.

You see the word got around about this little girl on Belmont Hill . Jim was walking in not one, not two but all fourteen 3 day walks. As he walked he had a picture of Zoie on his backpack. He was on a Ferry in SF during the 3 day walk when he heard a woman behind him crying. He was used to that, he had heard that many times over many miles. So he turned to speak with her. Her name was Kristina. What she told him sent the ripples even further and stronger. "I take care of her," she said "her name is Zoie."

Kristina Libby and her friends had always had a cheer section on Belmont Hill, and 2011 was nothing different. She brought Zoie and told her she could write anything she wanted on her sign. It was an emotional day for Zoie, but she felt good knowing she was encouraging these people in pink walking for an end to Breast Cancer.

Jim came to find out Zoie's Mother had passed away in 2010 at the age of 41. She left behind three daughters. The sisters were under the care of a bachelor uncle on disability. As they walked Jim learned more and more and came away with this new friend Kristina determined to do something to help the girls. The wave gains speed.

After the walk, Jim and Kristina got to work. they started contacting whomever they thought would help. The 3 day community united in their effort to help this girl on Belmont Hill. One of those Jim contacted was one of his new 3 day friends from Boston, Paul Young. Paul is in the insurance business and worked to get the family adopted by his office. Jim got a list of things they may need including some home repairs. Around Christmas time when Paul went over to the home he noticed space heaters everywhere. The furnace didn't work. He reached out to the community and they answered. By Christmas the sisters had safe heat and some much need Christmas gifts to celebrate. The tear drops had become a Maverick wave.

Today Zoie is 10. She knows that although her Mother is gone, she is surrounded by a world of love and care. Had it not been for the 3 day, none of this would have happened. Each and every person who sees Zoie, or others like her, on the 3 day is reminded we all have our scars from this horrible disease and most of of them are not physical. Most are deep in your heart and soul. But somehow KNOWING you can do something about that is so very healing to all of us. Knowing the 75% of the net proceeds we raise goes to research that will END this disease, and the other 25% goes to the community who needs it, gives us comfort, hope and power we would not have any other way. By putting our feet where our hearts are, we can physically make that statement with every step.

We can END Breast Cancer.

Zoie saw that. Zoie felt that.

This year in Boston, Zoie and her sister Erin are applying to be Youth Corp members. Those beautiful gold shirted kids who cheer us on, who help us out at camp, and remind us this walk is for them perhaps even more than it is for us.

The Maverick wave is now a Tsunami. And you know what???

Breast Cancer is no match for a Tsunami....

So when you hear people say, we could do without the 3 day. I could just donate my money to another organization, please remember Zoie and how this community made such a difference in her life. How many other stories like Zoie's will not be able to be told without your support.
There's something to be said for boots on the ground or sneakers on the Hills of Belmont and little girls tears.

I am asking for your continued support.
Thank you

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