– by Michael Ross and George Crawford
There we stood, roughly 90 lbs on our shoulders and no hiking experience. We were setting off; it felt so abrupt and foreign. After only a month of planning, there we were, not having any clue that this journey would take us nearly 300 days, let alone what even our first day would bring us. Had you told us just a day before we made the decision that we would walk across the United States for LIVESTRONG, we would have most likely laughed at you. Yet off we went, excited to greet the unknown, and not a day of the trip did we regret our tenacity.
Our goal was to raise as much awareness and funding for LIVESTRONG as possible. We had chosen this organization because it was a relatable cause, having had cancer affect both our families profoundly. Yet at the start of the walk, it was not LIVESTRONG, but the daunting task of navigating this country with nothing more than a backpack that loomed so heavily in our minds. The cause was always important, but at that point, we were thinking more along the lines of “we might as well help someone.”
As the journey progressed, something began happening that we never imagined. People took us in. We met their families, and for that night, we were family. Everyone had a story to tell, wisdom to share and an air of kindness about them. It simply became the way of life to not know what the next hour would bring, what we would eat or where we would sleep that night. Life seemed to work that out on its own.
We listened to the stories:
– a mother who had lost of child of only a year to an aggressive form of kidney cancer.
– a father who had battled prostate cancer and survived.
– a woman, with the help of LIVESTRONG, was able to afford the treatment for her ovarian cancer.
– on the streets of a Pittsburg, a woman took off her hat to reveal her bald head, telling us of her battle with breast cancer and giving us a hug.
– staying with a family in Indiana that had two young boys who had battled cancer, and upon meeting them, had a laugh at their “screw cancer” t-shirts.
These people had not given up, and neither would we. The trip loomed a little less largely in our minds, and LIVESTRONG took the forefront. Our following became bigger than we had ever expected, and daily, hundreds of people gave us words of encouragement. We came to realize that we had the ability to inspire others, though we never considered what we were doing to be so great. So, every day we did what we could: we spoke. We spoke to the families we met, the people who pulled over to find out what we were doing, the Relay for Life in Pennsylvania, the language school in Chicago, the detention center in Illinois and the high school dropouts in Colorado. We spoke to countless newspapers, news stations and to our now 12,000 Facebook followers who played such a large role in spreading the word.
Our cause was our inspiration and we had become part of a community of incredibly compassionate people. Thanks to them, we were able to grow astoundingly as individuals, and we are certainly not the same people who left Connecticut nearly a year ago. We had the time to make important decisions about our futures and our spiritual lives and build strong moral convictions. We dared to dream of futures that we were once too afraid to attempt. Our resolve had been tempered in a forge of horribly difficult times and beautiful learning experiences. The lessons this trip has taught us are something we will carry with us for the rest of our lives. Never did we consider turning back, and we wouldn’t change a single event. Except perhaps that time George nearly broke his nose…
Thank you so much to everyone who made this journey possible: our families, our followers and those we met on the road. But most of all thank you to LIVESTRONG for the honor of allowing us to represent you. We left not knowing much about this organization, and now we know we made the right choice. We have gotten to know so many people who represent LIVESTRONG and they are by far the most passionate, invigorating people we have met. Every one of them radiates life and is inspirational in their own right.
*** On behalf of the entire staff, thank you, THANK you, THANK YOU to Mike and George! They were outstanding representatives of the LIVESTRONG Foundation and mission and are the ethos of the Grassroots Events program. And by the way, they raised over $11,400 in the process! What can you do to help? Find out more HERE.