Every donation to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, no matter how small, helps us towards our goal of finding a cure for cancer. In fact, some of the most memorable donations are quite small. Back when I was training for the cycling event, before I broke my thumb, I was riding along a city green space trail wearing my shirt that says, “Ask me why I’m riding.” Two rather scruffy young men, engrossed in conversation, were walking side by side blocking the trail, oblivious to my repeated, “Passing on your left!” I was just about to brake when they finally heard me and jumped out of the way. As I sped past, gaining speed for a small uphill stretch, I heard a shouted, “Why are you riding?” They were the first ones to respond to the message on my shirt, and when I stopped and explained my mission they pulled every last bit of change they were carrying to donate.
Another donation came from a friendly mail carrier in Longmont when we were delivering phone books. The phone book routes are based on mail delivery routes, so we crossed paths several times. The first time I saw him I was parked in the ample shade of one of the maple trees that line the older streets of Longmont. The mail carrier was loading his bag for the next stage of his route. “You learn fast, parking in the shade,” he called out. Susan was helping me deliver that day, and when we met up later I found out that she, too, had chatted with him. When she had explained that we were not earning money for ourselves but for the LLS, he reached in his pocket and pulled out a small donation.
The spontaneous generosity of complete strangers in a chance encounter is what makes these two donations special. Another memorable chance encounter happened on our training hike yesterday. We were hiking the trails of Mt. Falcon Park, starting from the east side, and had just finished ascending the 2000 feet to the remnants of John Brisben Walker’s dreams. Walking along the trail with their three humans were two beautiful black dogs with rather unusual coats that caused some speculation about breed, so of course we stopped to chat. Once that had been cleared up (Was it Weimeraner and Setter? Don’t ask me, I’m not very doggy) conversation turned to why we were hiking. The response was unexpectedly emotional, because Judy is a cancer survivor. That’s her, fourth from the left, and her friend Andy (Andrea) had been part of her journey from her diagnosis on. (That’s daughter Abby holding the leashes, and I hope I spelled everyone’s name right.) When Judy mentioned that she wished the LLS had a baseball cap, because she usually wore one when she was hiking, Zoe (our coach, who must be taking this picture since she’s not in it) pulled one out of her pack and gave it to her.
The day was already on my list of best training hikes, but there was more good in store. First, wild raspberries. I always love eating the smaller but intensely flavored wild fruits, and I spotted a whole gully full of raspberry bushes.
Last of all came Janet and Lee. When I switched from the cycling event to hiking I wanted an “Ask me why…” element in my fund-raising, but a T-shirt doesn’t work when you’re carrying a pack. I needed something that could be attached to the back of a pack, easily moved to a different pack, and that was lightweight and waterproof. I worked on the problem for a week before I came up with the answer–a mouse pad held on with two of those hook-and-fuzz fasteners they make for keeping computer cords organized. This was the first hike I wore it, and I also carried my business cards (with fund-raising page and blog addresses). I gave out several cards to people we encountered, and Zoe gave me a push towards a bit more assertive asking–a call to action, not just a look if you want to. We were almost back at the parking lot when a mountain biker sped by, calling out, “Why are you hiking?” but not stopping for an answer. When we arrived at the parking lot, there she was, asking us to help her out. She and her friend Lee had parked their respective cars at opposite ends of their day’s ride, but she had left her car keys in his car. A few of us drove Lee to his car while the rest of us had a chance to sit and answer Janet’s question. Janet is a research scientist working on childhood diabetes, so she understands the importance of foundations in making progress against disease. She explained how satisfying her work is now that her lab is closely connected to a clinic, and she can see the research she did a few years ago directly helping patients today. Both she and Lee donated on the spot. So, for the last three weeks I’ve been walking the streets both training and fund-raising, and yesterday I walked the trails both training and fund-raising.