Anyone can START a change or start a difference. MAKING a change requires the support of a lot of people. One of the reasons that all of our walks involved schools and universities was to give us the chance to share our story with entire student bodies.
Walk #1 (Braden = 50 lbs): The first walk was meant to be a community project. It was a 40 mile walk from my junior high school to the University of Michigan. It grew because of the support from my own community which rippled off and happened overnight.
WHAT WE DID RIGHT: We sent out tons of emails and press releases to different newspapers and radio stations so that we could get the attention. The Detroit Free Press picked up our story and then overnight the Associated Press covered it and the next morning it was all over the country. Having the basic information about the "when" and the "where" is important, but what trumps everything is the "why." I think the "why" has to be from the heart and be bigger than "you" -- it has to be meaningful to the world itself.
OUR MIRACLE: We didn't anticipate that Braden would be chaffed so badly from the swagger of our walk. We had just 3.5 hours left to walk, but Braden was bleeding and crying. I wasn't sure we were going to make it. It was 55-degrees outside, cold an rainy. I called a friend and asked if he would pray for us over the phone. Then I got a call from Braden's therapist who had the idea of changing Braden's sling in such a way that it wouldn't continue to rub across his wound. By the time we were ready to get started again, it was 70-degrees and sunny.
Walk #2 (Braden = 60 lbs): Our second walk encompassed 57 miles going from my Brother’s school to the University of Michigan’s Pediatric Rehabilitation Center.
WHAT WE DID RIGHT: We knew we wanted this event to be bigger, and the only way we thought we could generate the same amount of excitement and interest was to make the walk more challenging, which is why we made it longer. We also knew it was important to get a big send-off, so we involved Braden's school and had 550 of his classmates there when we started our walk!
OUR MIRACLE: Our goal of this walk was to help the world see the need for better treatment options, smarter equipment and more aggressive progress towards creating a truly accessible world for people with disabilities. Keeping our faith that God would be with us made it all possible!
Walk #3 (Braden = 70 lbs): 111 miles from my high school to the State Capital building in Lansing. This took 6 days to complete. Our angle and direct goals changed during the walk. The first project was to get the attention of the leaders, influencers, innovators and entrepreneurs what Cerebral Palsy is and get the attention. The second was to show the different struggles that a patient has. The third walk was to challenge the world to take the necessary steps towards inclusion.
WHAT WE DID RIGHT: Sponsors covered the costs of the hotels so that we could sleep well at night. As you might expect, finding a sponsor is about exercising your network and connections and constantly putting yourself out there. Our biggest sponsor is Farm Bureau Insurance, and they contacted me after hearing me speak.
OUR MIRACLE: The culmination of all three walks helped us raise $185,000 dollars in conjunction with the PTA of Braden's school, to build an inclusive playground for all kids.