In the eight years I've participated in MS Challenge Walk, I've made plenty of connections. From friends and family who support my training and fundraising, to the steering committee that tolerates my off-the-wall ideas, to the walkers and crew who cheer each other on, the relationships formed around this three-day weekend are ones that I cherish year-round.
This year, not only did I receive notes of encouragement before the walk, but I had more letters waiting for me even after I arrived on the Cape. A former formal member of Gordon's Team and now an honorary one, I arrived at their annual pre-walk homestead to find a sealed message waiting for me. It came from one of the team's youngest members, Emma, who this year made the transition from crew to walker. Here's what she wrote:
A transcript follows:
Excited for another year? I know I am. I just want to say how glad I am that you decided to be a part of this. It has shown me how pure determination and hope can form amazing friendships. No matter what team you are listed under officially, there will always be a spot for you on Gordon's Team, and we will always claim you as one of us. So thank you for everything you have brought to our team. Thanks for a smile along the route (which I'm sure I will need this year), that trolley ride (it is in my top walk memories), and a friendship the whole family holds dear.
What a wonderful way to start the walk! How could I not be eager to get out there and support this family, without whom I never would've heard about or joined MS Challenge Walk?
That wasn't the last note of support I'd find that weekend. A friend who spent her Labor Day weekend on Cape Cod knew I'd soon be following in her footsteps, so she stopped by Nickerson State Park — better known to us as Day 2, Rest Stop #1. There, she engaged in a bit of letterboxing, a distant cousin of geocaching. At a specific place in the park, she left me a message, one I could find only by following these clues:
This is a "drive-by", "walk-by" or "bicycle-by" letterbox with one caveat. It is located right off Flax Pond Rd, and this road is very busy with cars coming to and from one of the park boat ramps. If traveling by car, it would be best to enter the Area 5 campground, and park near the Restrooms. [Proceed] down Flax Pond Rd until you see a large glacial erratic on your right. Approach on foot, and look into the "jaws" of the boulder. The Nickerson State Park Letterbox is hidden inside.
Near the end of the walk's first day, where I found Pocahontas handing out hugs to walkers just 0.42 miles from the Cape Cod Sea Camps, I abandoned my post and took a detour off our prescribed route to follow the above instructions. I wasn't far into the park when I found the boulder in question.
I dismounted my bicycle, climbed into the "jaws", reached my hand in… and came out with this!
My thanks to Cara and her fiddler crab for taking the time and effort to support me and all our walkers! And to everyone else who let their humanity shine this challenging weekend. Before, during, or after, be it a hug, a tweet, or these letters, there's no limit to the support to be found at MS Challenge Walk.
Ken, a Framingham resident, joined the MS Challenge Walk in 2005, more than a decade after his mother was diagnosed. After walking for three years and 150 miles, he switched to the support crew and now rides his bicycle along the trail, providing whatever encouragement (and snacks!) he can to the 600 walkers. He is also on the event's steering committee and is this site's webmaster.