So, hey–I’ve been doing this for the past day or so: Relay For Life, one of those community events where you harass the hell out of your friends, and get a t-shirt in return of staying up all night and walking around a course filled with activities and contests and all other manner of distractions. My kids’ awesome swimming team, where we’ve been investing a lot of our energy over the last decade, participated as an organization this year–athletes, parents, and even a few of the coaches. I felt a sudden and convincing impulse to join, even though I hate doing fund raising and, you know, doing good.
In 2010 my best friend since childhood was diagnosed with a recurrence of a cancerous tumor in his abdomen. Six weeks later he was dead–we were baptized together as babies (that’s right, I was baptized, and not in goat’s blood, either)–we went to school together, spent a couple of years as college housemates, traveled together, worked together in Wyoming (where I lured him to the mountains from an office job) and lived about 15 minutes apart in Oregon. We were about as close to being brothers as I can imagine–the guy could drive me crazy like nobody else, and I loved him.
About 15 months later, my brother-in-law was taken from our family, leaving my sister and four daughters, the oldest just 14 at the time. I don’t suppose I need to try and define how messed up that is? Givng a day of my life is the very least I can do if it means some day down the road some other guy’s kids and wife aren’t going to have to live through a similar, life-defining tragedy.
So, yesterday afternoon we started walking. You don’t walk the entire 24 hours–although I put in about 10 miles through the evening and night–it’s a relay, so a minimum of 3 members of each team must be walking at any time. At the same time, every team has a booth that sells things (food, crafts, etc) or has contests, like basket contests and games of skill, as well as cancer awareness information. Every hour of the walk has a theme–and teams get “spirit points” for participating in things like “Patriotic Hour” and so forth.
We kind of rocked it–I rounded up several hundred dollars by mercilessly bludgeoning my closest friends and known associates via facebook, and our team in it’s first year generated around $8000 in donations. Additionally, we raised a boatload of money at our booth, and spent not a little on concessions and games at other booths. In the end, our team won the “spirit points” title for the entire event–a measure of participation and pride that included my buddy Marty and I taking third place in a corn-hole tournament–despite it being my first time ever playing, and our wildly popular laps during “Dude Looks Like A Lady” themed hour. That’s my hulking frame in gold–still can’t believe they make matronly dresses to fit men’s chest size 56 long–but here’s the proof. Poor Marty got chastized from excessive twerking. I was much more demure, despite a LOT of catcalls and one vaguely inappropriate proposition.
The most inspiring part of the event was the Survivor’s Brunch–a defiant march from the the relay area to an adjacent sports complex, where survivors, proudly wearing their bright purple shirts, were treated to a catered breakfast. Some people immediately stood up and clapped as they walked by, and I’m generally not that kind of joiner, but looking at all those people–old, young, slim, fat, debilitated, seemingly fit and healthy, tall, short–it’s hard not to get that warm feeling behind your eyes, the one that makes you glad for sunglasses. In the end, I was clapping as loudly as anyone.
I did sleep, a full hour beneath a fleece blanket in my Coleman folding chair from around five to six, when my kids went into the relay on “twin hour”. Purportedly an event for pairs of folks to dress alike, they hiked it up a notch by actually looking alike.
When I finally got home, I crashed in an arm chair for close to 4 hours–I slept through a loud thunderstorm and only woke up with Marty called to try and cajole Mrs. Junk and I to hit the drive-in theater (we’ve got one in our town, and it’s awesome) to see the new Avengers film. I said something like “dude, really?” I’d been so hard asleep that when the phone finally drove me out of my dreams, I stared at the thing for at least two rings trying to remember how to answer it. And I stink.
On the other hand, I got a nice tan, had a blast with my family and friends both new and old, got a lot of sun–I’m literally golden–and played a part in and event that raised tens of thousands of dollars. And oh, yeah–I earned a free a t-shirt.
What did you do today? (not a lot of days I can ask that and feel cocky about it).