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Tweets from the trail

Written by on September 10, 2010 at 1:00 pm

As promised, here are my last ten Twitter tweets from the MS Challenge Walk! I'm limited to 140 characters, so the messages are short. I also shouldn't be using my cell phone while walking, so I'll probably be updating only at rest stops.

The newest tweets are on the top. Refresh this page regularly to see new ones, or visit us on Twitter.

[The live tweet has concluded! Please see Kahm's archive of tweets for the full story.]

Kahmmie was a first-year walker in 2010 and had just started to get involved with the MS community, with the inspiration of her then significant other, Ken, this site's webmaster. She lived in the Boston area and attended graduate school full-time.

Crossing the first finish line

Written by on August 27, 2010 at 11:08 am

So we're only a few weeks from the Challenge Walk, and something I hoped but never thought would happen has happened: I completed my fundraising goal.

It's not that I thought it was impossible to raise $1,500 — I know people who've done this walk before, and overachievers like Ken set their goals thousands higher than that minimum. I just thought it was impossible for me. I have a small family, my friends are all starving graduate students, and "spare time" in which to do fundraising activities is about as foreign to me as sub-Saharan Africa. I depended almost exclusively on my solicitation letters — and yet, somehow, it all worked out. I reached my goal.

With that strange sense of calm, I can look back at what I did and see how it worked. I sent about thirty solicitation letters, and about twenty of those recipients donated. The few no-replies were mostly long shots — cousins with burgeoning broods of children whom I rarely see. For the most part, my family has been exceedingly generous about an event they are actually quite far removed from. (Is there a prize for having the most non-regional sponsors? Because the vast majority of my donations are from Missouri, Kansas, and Nebraska!)

But I also wouldn't be even close to my goal if it hadn't been for the non-solicited donations from friends. In one day, a single, unexpected cash donation moved me from "I might get close…" to "I'll definitely reach my goal!". I also earned some bonus bucks through MS-related events that haven't tallied into my count yet. A friend of mine who thought I still had another hundred to go was pleasantly surprised to learn he had actually put me over the top!

Another factor I've started noticing is my Facebook counter has been getting me some last-minute donations. Apparently, people find a cause more irresistible if you actually look like you're going to succeed in meeting your goal. Because those bonus bucks are still out there, I've gotten a few donations even after reaching $1,500, which gave me a new goal: to actually raise the money I'd gotten in fundraising remission. It would be an amazing sense of accomplishment if I could actually "cancel out" the bonus bucks I thought I'd have to rely on!

I started this fundraising process thinking I'd be very lucky to make even half of the minimum, and I solicited without really expecting much response. But the one thing that has kept surprising me throughout this endeavor is the unexpected generosity people will show for a good cause. This Challenge Walk has given me a renewed hope — not just that people with MS can have better lives, but that we all can when we work together toward a worthy goal!

Kahmmie was a first-year walker in 2010 and had just started to get involved with the MS community, with the inspiration of her then significant other, Ken, this site's webmaster. She lived in the Boston area and attended graduate school full-time.

Money motivation

Written by on July 30, 2010 at 1:04 pm

I'm not sure if it's a Midwestern sensibility, a sense of shyness, or just plain pride, but I have always felt awkward asking people for money. I knew this long before I signed up for the Challenge Walk, so from the start, I knew that the solicitation and fundraising aspects of the event would be my biggest trial.

On any given day, if you gave me the choice, I'd probably be more comfortable walking an extra 30 miles than asking for donations! But that's not the way this walk works, and the bar is set high with a requested $1,500 minimum per walker. So not knowing what else to do, I followed the lead of my boyfriend (a long-time walker and bike crew member for this event) and started writing solicitation letters.

Those who received my solicitation were, without exception, family in some way, and I have the extra challenge of not living near any family. Could I really expect people who live over 1,000 miles from New England to care about this walk? What's more, I know that some of them are having a hard time making ends meet right now; could I in good conscience even solicit them in the first place? With all these questions weighing on me, I became worried that I should start eliminating prospective donors from my already small pool. What's more, I was becoming convinced that there was no possible way to hit that fundraising minimum.

But Ken, kind and sometimes even wise man that he is, gave me a small but intrinsic piece of advice — it's not my place to decide whether someone else can afford to donate, or to decide how big a priority charity is for them. All I can do is offer the opportunity and see who wants to take it.

With that in mind, I rallied my courage, stamped a bunch of envelopes, and dropped them all in the mail before I could change my mind. Now that some donations are coming back, I'm seeing his point: some of the donations are much bigger than I expected. A few are a little smaller. But overall, I'm surprised by the level of generosity my family is showing to this walk — even if they aren't anywhere near New England and don't know anyone who has MS, many of them still want to support me in my pursuits, and for some of them, that's reason enough to contribute. For others, perhaps they're glad to know that I'm spending my spare time promoting good causes. I may not know each person's motivation for donating, but I do respond with all the gratitude I feel for their support.

Though that $1,500 goal is still very lofty, this first round of fundraising has given me the motivation to look for other opportunities to close the gap. I don't know if I'll be selling my home-grown cucumbers, hosting a back-to-school party for my classmates, or just outright begging, but I'm going to do what I can to raise money for this cause. Whether or not I make the minimum, I can walk proudly if I know I gave it my best effort.

Kahmmie was a first-year walker in 2010 and had just started to get involved with the MS community, with the inspiration of her then significant other, Ken, this site's webmaster. She lived in the Boston area and attended graduate school full-time.

Destination in mind

Written by on July 9, 2010 at 1:34 pm

I'll admit, doing something like the Challenge Walk is out of character for me. I'm a destination walker: I walk to get to where I'm going. Even though I like the idea of going out for a stroll for fun or exercise, it's darn hard for me to get off my rear unless there's a real end to my journey — the grocery store, my job, Starbucks… So I knew I was going to have to think of something creative to get myself training for this walk.

I found an easy way to do a little more training right off the bat. I work about a mile away from where I live, and walk there every day. With the help of Google Maps' walking directions, I found a way to make my usual route about a half a mile longer. As an added plus, it's a lot more scenic — instead of walking past a mile of apartment buildings and busy intersections, I take my time and loop around a nearby park area, complete with a walking path and a pond filled with excitable geese. My destination remains the same, but I can take an extra ten minutes to see a prettier part of town and get my feet used to walking greater distances. In another month or so, I hope to reevaluate my route and change it to make the trek even longer.

Chill frozen yogurt

Tart frozen yogurt can be a powerful motivator!

Of course, an extra half-mile per day is helpful, but I won't be ready for 30 miles unless I start doing some distance, too! My solution for my motivation problem is basically shameless self-bribery. If I'm feeling hungry for frozen yogurt, I can "earn" it by walking a huge loop around the neighborhood that ends at my favorite frozen yogurt shop. What's more, I can find interesting-sounding coffee shops or ice cream stores that are reasonably far away from me as destinations, using training time to get better acquainted with my neighborhood. Somehow, the walk home always seems shorter with something cold and delicious in hand!

I'm hoping to slowly break out of my tendency to be a destination walker, or at least better remember that not all destinations are physical locations. The Challenge Walk's destination is may physically be Cape Cod, but it's actually a world without MS, and I hope to walk all the way there — though I might show up with a frappe in hand.

Kahmmie was a first-year walker in 2010 and had just started to get involved with the MS community, with the inspiration of her then significant other, Ken, this site's webmaster. She lived in the Boston area and attended graduate school full-time.

Shoes are made for walking

Written by on May 28, 2010 at 9:59 am

As my semester ended and the rigors of graduate work slowly started to fade into memory, I knew it was time to begin training in earnest for the Challenge Walk in September. But as a new walker, I was missing something very important: shoes! I'm the kind of person who can live in the same pair of flip-flops all summer (and the same boots all winter), so the idea of investing in a good pair of athletic shoes was a little daunting. Still, I knew it had to be done, and I solicited the advice of others to find out where to shop.

In response to my message on this site's forum, Heather Hancock kindly suggested that I look around for a Marathon Sports. Luckily enough, there was one a short distance from where I live. I knew from their Web site that they had some high-end shoes and would do consultations to get a good fit, so it looked like a smart place to buy. My only worry was that with all the personal consulting, I'd be pressured into buying the most expensive shoes in the store.

Marathon SportsI went in on a quiet Friday. A salesman asked me what kind of shoes I was looking for and watched me walk across the room and back to give him an idea of what sort of fit would work for me. As he went in the back to collect a few pairs for me to try, I watched as a woman (obviously an avid runner) put on a pair of new sneakers. She took the clerk's suggestion to try them out — which she did by running out of the store and around the block. I jokingly asked if they ever had problems with people not coming back, but the clerk gestured to the woman's sandals, purse, and cell phone on the floor, telling me it usually wasn't an issue.

While we were chatting, the clerk who'd gone to fetch my shoes came back with a couple of pairs and informed me that since my feet were slightly wider than average, but not wide enough to necessitate a "wide"-fit shoe, he picked shoes he knew to have the most toe space. The first pair I tried on was just right — cushy and comfortable, but snug enough that I wouldn't have to worry about blistering. And to my surprise, he had brought me some of the lowest-priced shoes they had in stock!

And so it was that within 15 minutes I had a perfect pair of walking shoes in my possession, and I was excited to give them a test run on the way home. After a successful five-mile walk in Laconia, I think my new puppies are well broken in and ready for some serious training! And if my shoes are that enthusiastic about walking, it's hard for me not to be.

Kahmmie was a first-year walker in 2010 and had just started to get involved with the MS community, with the inspiration of her then significant other, Ken, this site's webmaster. She lived in the Boston area and attended graduate school full-time.

Taking the first step

Written by on May 17, 2010 at 1:30 pm

As a first-time Challenge Walker, you'll want to have someone experienced by your side. For me, that experienced someone is my best friend and significant other, Ken, whose mother suffers from MS. Even though I've never participated in charity walks before, his passion for the cause is contagious, and this year I will happily be the second person of a two-person team, the MSchief Makers.

I relocated to Boston almost a year ago, right before the 2009 Challenge Walk — I wanted to participate, but having just moved halfway across the country and started my first year of graduate school the week before, the timing wasn't quite workable. But I swore to myself that I'd be a Challenge Walker in 2010, and now I'm registered and (almost) ready to walk!

I'm new to every part of this walk, so I'll be writing about my initial experiences with training, fundraising, networking … the works! Step one (as well as steps 2, 3, and on up through the thousands) occurred this weekend with my first-ever charity walk: a short, five-mile walk in Laconia, NH. Though Ken normally works the support crew from his bike in MS walks, it didn't take too much convincing to get him to join me on two feet for this trek.

Dylan the dog

Walkers and dogs alike turned out for Laconia's first one-day walk!

Of all the NMSS's one-day walks, this was the first one to be held in Laconia, and it was exciting to be part of a new event. It couldn't have been a more perfect day for a stroll, and there was a great turnout for a new walk (over 100 people … and a lot more dogs than I expected). We didn't spend too much time socializing with the other walkers, but there was something fascinating about knowing we were all here for the same reasons — there was a feeling of solidarity within the group, despite the fact that most of us didn't know one another. It was both unique and exciting to feel at home in a crowd of relative strangers simply because you share a common cause.

The walk itself was comfortable and refreshing, and I was happy to prove to myself that my body can do five miles fairly easily. I made good choices for shoes, socks, and apparel, but I should have been a little more careful when applying sunscreen: for someone with my winter pallor, two hours in direct sunlight will leave one a little singed. But I'll remember these things for my training walks over the summer — five miles is one thing, but 30 needs practice! This shorter walk proved to be an excellent kick-off for my involvement with the MS community, and I'm definitely excited about taking up the Challenge in September, but one thing is for sure: I need to do a lot of walking between now and then!

Kahmmie was a first-year walker in 2010 and had just started to get involved with the MS community, with the inspiration of her then significant other, Ken, this site's webmaster. She lived in the Boston area and attended graduate school full-time.