Archives

...now browsing by author

 

Remembering John Keefe

Written by on June 28, 2017 at 2:41 pm

My first year at Challenge Walk MS was an intimidating one. Although the event was only a few years old, it seemed like everyone else already knew what they were doing. I didn't — had I trained enough? Was I wearing the right shoes? What if I have to pee? There were plenty of people cheering me on… but only one person demanded I get out there and fight the good fight. In full Army uniform and filled with bluster, The General ordered hundreds of walkers to keep up the pace and cross the finish line in the fight against MS.

This imposing figure's encouragement wasn't just bravado. In my thank-you letter to my donors that year, I wrote of my personal encounter with The General:

Walking 50 miles is an exhausting experience not only physically, but also emotionally — but it’s also very rewarding. Around mile 27, I thought I was walking alone … until the General pulled up alongside me on his bicycle. A 70-year-old retired Army vet, the General volunteers every year to be at key points on the route, loudly and enthusiastically urging us on. As he slowed his bike to my pace, he quietly told me, "There are a lot of bystanders in life. You’re not one of them. Thank you for walking for my bride."

John Keefe on bicycle

The General was a mainstay of Challenge Walk MS, showing up every year on foot, on bicycle, and in Humvee — but it wasn't until almost a decade later than I even knew his name. In 2012, I had the honor of interviewing John Keefe Jr. for a podcast that featured the personal stories of Challenge Walk MS's heroes. In that discussion, I found a man very different from the one on the trail: a man who spoke quietly of the demands of being a caregiver, and the battles he'd fought to become that person.

In both his private and public lives, John Keefe was a tower of resolve — someone we all counted on to motivate us across Cape Cod every year without end. And so it was such a shock to learn that John passed away last week, leaving behind his wife, four children, seven grandchildren, and hundreds of friends and fans in the MS community.

Many of those friends immediately took to Facebook, sharing their own memories of sharing the Cape Cod Rail Trail with the General:

"We are together today and are brokenhearted to learn of his passing. He has had a high impact on our walker community for a long, long time. We will all miss him deeply and plan a special tribute to him this year at Challenge Walk." –Lori Espino, President, National MS Society, Greater New England Chapter

"He helped me every time I had to use the damn wheelchair, including the first time; he let me have my meltdown, then told me to get my 'ass back on the trail and beat the shit out of the pavement'. Hoo-rah, Sarge! I love you and my heart is heavy and hurts and the tears still roll down my cheeks." –Heather Hancock

"A heartbreaking loss. John was a hero, a great human being, whose joy for life elevated everyone he met. We are all so fortunate he was part of our world. I salute him and will carry him in my heart always. September will never be the same." –Steve Sookikian, former Associate Vice President of Communications, National MS Society, Greater New England Chapter

"Tom and I are so saddened by this news. I never thought there would be Challenge Walk without the General. He was such an inspiring person to so many. He will be sorely missed." –Leslie Baldi, team co-captain, Baldi's MS Busters

"Just terrible news, but what an honor is was to have had the chance to come to know him. My entire family will miss seeing him down there, but his spirit and drive to encourage us on when things got tough will always bring a smile to our faces as we fondly remember him." –John Steinmann, team co-captain, The Sole Train

"I can't believe it. I am so devastated. He was always ready with a smile and a hug. The year I took my final steps over the finish line, he was right there cheering me on and then gave me hugs… He was like a loving 'dad' to us on the course with encouragement, caring, love, high fives and hugs. He will be truly missed, and my heart is broken for his family." –Nicole Monfredo, team member, Walk With Wheels

"Heartbreaking news. He was such a wonderful man and had a huge impact on my life. I can't imagine the walk without him. He was a special person who touched so many lives. Can't stop crying…" –Patricia Thorpe, team captain, Blister Buddies

"Wow, complete shock. What an amazing man he was. His memory will live on. I will always remember that music blaring, him screaming tunes at us, hugs every time you saw him, words of encouragement and wonderful stories. He was the type of person who truly impacted everyone he met. And as we know — HUGE mascot of our MS family. I'm heartbroken, but I feel so lucky to have been able to call him our general." –Cassandra Milone, team captain, Pino's Fighters

Thank you, General, for all that you've done for us. You touched us all, and we know you'll hear us when we "Hoorah!" on the Cape this and every September.

All photos courtesy Andrew Child.

Ken 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 an alumnus of the event's steering committee and is this site's webmaster.

Live tweeting MS Challenge Walk 2014

Written by on September 4, 2014 at 9:00 am

For the fourth consecutive year, walker and committee member Jennifer Yates will be live-tweeting the MS Challenge Walk Cape Cod. Her tweets and several other walkers' and volunteers' will appear on our Twitter landing page.

Share this weekend's experience with a friend and invite them to live the Challenge vicariously by following along with our tweets! Here's the link:

https://www.challengeblog.org/twitter/

The tweets will also appear live on our Facebook page, so feel free to follow along there if you prefer:

https://www.facebook.com/MSChallengeWalkCapeCod

Are you a Twitter or Instagram user? Want to get in on the action? Use hashtag #MSChallengeCapeCod!

Ken 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 an alumnus of the event's steering committee and is this site's webmaster.

MS Challenge Walk 2014 promo

Written by on February 28, 2014 at 10:27 am

The MS Challenge Walk is a difficult experience to capture. How do you explain to someone what would make you walk fifty miles — not just one year, but every year? How do you put into words the hope and love that come with strained muscles and flowing tears? It doesn't make sense, and it's almost impossible to convey.

Yet just as we set out to do the impossible by walking fifty miles, so too does the crew of Red Dirt Productions tackle the challenging task of capturing and sharing the experience. For years, Brenda Neary and her crew have come to Cape Cod to volunteer their video production skills to produce commercials based on our walk. They have now unveiled their promotion for MS Challenge Walk 2014:

Three minutes may be the perfect length for the more attentive television generation, but in this age of tweets and Facebook posts, it may tax one's attention span. So here's a 30-second version:

Please share this video on Facebook or put it on Twitter to tell all your friends about this amazing experience!

Ken 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 an alumnus of the event's steering committee and is this site's webmaster.

Tweeting live from MS Challenge Walk 2013

Written by on September 5, 2013 at 8:59 am

We're pleased to welcome committee member Jennifer Rebecca Yates back to our Twitter account. As she did last year and the year before, Jen will be tweeting live from the Cape Cod Rail Trail using the official @MSChallengeWalk account starting tomorrow. This means that throughout the weekend, you or your friends and family back home can experience the event live in real time by visiting this blog to see short text messages and even photos from the route. All our tweets will also appear on the MS Challenge Walk's Facebook page!

Jen won't be the only Twitter user at MS Challenge Walk; you can follow our list of walkers to get even more perspectives. Their tweets will also be included in the below stream (but not on our Facebook page). Will you be tweeting? Let us know, and use hashtag #MSCW (short for MS Challenge Walk) in your own tweets!

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

Ken 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 an alumnus of the event's steering committee and is this site's webmaster.

Getting the word out on public access TV

Written by on February 20, 2013 at 10:25 am

MS Challenge Walk is a dynamic community that draws people from around the world — yet it is a community that, like multiple sclerosis, is largely unseen. As we go about our day-to-day lives, our friends, family, and neighbors can't see what it is that drives us to walk 50 miles. Many people may not know what MS is, or that there is an event dedicated to seeing it end.

Volunteer Dan Young, who each year donates his photography skills to MS Challenge Walk, recently took an extra step to increasing awareness of MS by recruiting his employer to the cause: Access Nashua, a public access television station in Nashua, New Hampshire. Host Denise-Marie McIntosh invited four participants of MS Challenge Walk — Kevin Lombardi, James Derick, Marisa Bonanno, and me — onto her talk segment, Fairy Tale Access. We discussed how MS works, how it has affected our lives, what we do about it, and how viewers can help.

The show is scheduled to air during MS Awareness Week, March 11–17, on television stations around New England as well as YouTube. Watch for it next month on this blog, and in the meantime, enjoy this behind-the-scenes sneak preview!

Ken 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 an alumnus of the event's steering committee and is this site's webmaster.

Jumpstart your online fundraising

Written by on February 8, 2013 at 8:11 am

A growing percentage of MS Challenge Walk fundraising occurs online — and why not? Which is easier: sending a letter to your friend in Nome, Alaska, her writing a check and returning it in your self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE), you then writing a receipt and mailing the check to the NMSS; or sending your friend an email and asking her to punch in her credit card online?

Not only does the online approach get the money into the bank more quickly, it also gives the National MS Society a bigger cut, as fewer hands need to be hired to process a check. It's a winning situation for all parties.

There are other online fundraising tools, too: you can make every email into a fundraising solicitation; a handy Facebook application can do your fundraising for you; you can promote your offline events in an online event calendar; you can even get Amazon.com to give you a piece of the action.

I reviewed all these tools and more at last month's Jumpstart Your Fundraising meeting. Didn't attend? A 20-minute recording of that presentation is available in the below YouTube video:

If you want more details about any of these opportunities, please email me or leave a comment. For more advice from Jumpstart, listen to the MS Challenge Talk audio recordings. To be alerted to future Jumpstart sessions, sign up for free email notifications!

Ken 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 an alumnus of the event's steering committee and is this site's webmaster.

MS Challenge Walk 2013 commercial & PSA

Written by on January 20, 2013 at 7:27 pm

Every September, Brenda Neary and her Red Dirt Productions crew come to Cape Cod not just to bear witness to MS Challenge Walk, but to share the experience with a wider audience. They do so by recording the event on film and editing an amazing three-day adventure into a three-minute commercial that captures the essence of what it means to be a part of the MS Challenge Walk community.

The 2013 video is now out, having been filmed at the 2012 walk. Not only will you see many familiar friends and faces, but you can use this video to recruit even more heroes into our ranks. Use the "Share this" buttons at the bottom of this post to take advantage of this recruitment resource. Make them the stars of next year's commercial!

And here's a separate, shorter video that features different heroes:

Ken 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 an alumnus of the event's steering committee and is this site's webmaster.

What's in a podcast name?

Written by on September 24, 2012 at 11:14 am

When it comes to naming something, I'm better at quantity over quality. Whether it's a book, dog, slogan, or podcast, I'll throw out dozens of awful ideas and ask someone with more sense which one is the least bad.

Take for example these team names I proposed back in 2009, from which my teammate Tracy selected "MSChief Makers"

  • MSbehavior
  • MScreants
  • MSfits
  • MSchief Makers
  • MSery Loves Company

In the instance of launching this blog back in 2009, I started off with what Internet domain I would want to register, since a site's Web address can determine how easily it is found by both users and search engines like Google. Todd Krohne made the final selection from these candidates:

  • threedaysfiftymiles.org
  • challengeblog.org
  • challengewalkers.org
  • mschallengewalkNE.org
  • MAchallengewalk.com

Three years later, we decided to add a podcast to the show. Danielle Kempe and I had to choose from these suggested names:

  • Talking for a Cure
  • The Challenge Talk
  • Walk the Walk, Talk the Talk
  • Talk the Walk
  • The Walkthrough

It was suggested that "Talking for a Cure" might capitalize on Google searches for The Talking Dead, a television show and podcast about the AMC television series The Walking Dead. But we were launching an interview series about multiple sclerosis, not zombies, and we decided to avoid that overlap as much as possible, lest we confuse our visitors.

Once we settled on MS Challenge Talk, I went to register challengetalk.org. Like any good online business, my registrar tried to upsell me by asking if I wanted to corner the market by purchasing several similar-sounding domain names. The list of suggestions read like a thesaurus run amok:

Suggested alternatives for ChallengeTalk.org

My favorites: "Dare Chat", "Venture Talk", and "Hazard Call".

I wonder how Danielle would've felt about talking to me on any of those shows??

Ken 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 an alumnus of the event's steering committee and is this site's webmaster.