Friday, September 21, 2012

Great Neighborhood

I took some time off from the walk recently. Tendonitis and a busy schedule with a teenager at home has made it hard to walk in the past month. Rest assured that the walk continues. I have past this year's half way mark, which means I have covered 350+ miles of Grand Rapids roads total. I still have a long way to go before the snow flies and it has started raining outside. So, I blog....

I recently had a very long walk (for one day) in what I call a Great Neighborhood. While I was walking  and appreciating the neighborhood, I was also thinking about how this fund-raiser was related to this walk. The Great Neighborhood is the answer.

First, let me tell you what a Great Neighborhood is not. It is not "great" houses, "great" cars, "great" streets. This long walk was in a neighborhood that had big houses next to small houses next to medium houses. It was a real variety of house shapes, styles and sizes. There were newly paved streets next to cracking neglected streets. Old cars parked next to new cars parked next to jalopies. There are a surprising number of neighborhoods like this in Grand Rapids. I am not talking about one block of expensive houses and one block of inexpensive houses. The neighborhoods are really diverse. While I think there is a component of this diversity that makes these neighborhoods special, that is not all that it needed to make them great.

The key to the Great Neighborhood can not be captured in a single word, but in a story.

Walking down the streets, I see people out in the neighborhood: Mothers walking their children, men mowing the lawn, women jogging, boys riding bikes, older men sitting on the porch watching the neighborhood. It was a nice day - a few sprinkles here and there - but it was a weekday and the neighborhood was active. That is the first component: the neighborhood is alive and active.

As I walked by it was obvious that I was not from the neighborhood. Come on, you would remember a guy walking his bike in a floppy green hat, sunglasses and a longer than average beard. It is clear that I am a stranger to these streets. But invariably, as I walk through the streets, I am greeted with a smile, a happy "Good afternoon, how are you today? Isn't it a beautiful day?" No questions or stern looks, just a dozen or so people in an hour's walk being out-of-the-way friendly.

As kids play in the streets, neighbors across the street keep an eye out, still friendly - not leary. I see a neighbors talking in the street as they pass by on the way to the park. A neighbor leans in to the driver side window in the middle of the street to catch up. Neighbors know each other and take part in each other's lives. They are concerned and compassionate and still always friendly.

Yeah, this was all in one day, in one Great Neighborhood. But I have seen it many places in Grand Rapids. I will not tell you this is everywhere. There are some neighborhoods where I never see anyone, even on a beautiful day. Where I get suspicious looks and questions (I still have not come across a person angry with me in all of the North side. Dogs maybe, not people 8^)).

So what does this have to do with the fund-raiser?

It has always been my intent to do this small and simple. To share that the MS Society needs help and I am willing to walk every street in Grand Rapids to help people notice. One person tells another, sends an email to a friend. Ask for pledges. Send them to Send the address to a lot of people. If they can not donate, they can learn about MS and the MS Society, tell their friends, some that maybe can donate. Be active and alive in your community. Show concern and compassion. Everyone can do something. Play a part.

I made a connection on this walk that I had not seen before. I want to see all the people I send this to send it to others, to be active, alive, friendly and compassionate. This is a virtual Great Neighborhood that will grow and cause some good.

Thanks for indulging my long post. Please visit the donate link and tell your "neighbors".

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


I have documented the reasons for starting this journey to walk every street in Grand Rapids. The main reason, of course, is to raise money for a worthy and conscientious charity that helps so many people in need, the MS Society.

What I haven't documented yet is why I am doing it the way I am doing it. It comes down to one word: Simple.

I decided from the beginning that I wanted this to be something that anyone could do, with meager resources and contact with their friends. And their friend's friends. While I could likely get sponsors to buy new footwear, shirts and cards and a road team and a bunch of posters and flyers and the like, that would be spending money and time on me and the organization of the fund raiser and not the cause. I think it is important to be a good steward of what we have and to me, part of that is simplicity. In addition, I figure this could be a model for others, especially those that do not have the means to run or participate in big fundraisers.

So, I have taken on only those things that take little time and effort to raise money, short of walking hundreds of miles (the majority of my time and effort here). A free blog site. A free email address. Some paper maps and time to log (free spreadsheet). Other things, like my computer, are things I already have. I have already posted some ideas about how best to do this. This summer I will be posting here (or providing links to information) the details of just how this is accomplished, including my past logs of progress with miles traveled and streets covered.

What does this mean for you? It means that, in order for this fundraiser to be successful, I need one thing from you. It doesn't involve walking 330 miles (covered so far by me) and best of all it's simple.

Find out why it is important to help the MS Society and tell your friends.

In little ways, spread the word about this crazy guy who is walking every street in Grand Rapids and share the link. Talk about it, forward the emails, blog about it. If you have the means contribute at the Donate site. Let your favorite TV and radio stations know what I am doing (I have contacted them several times, but I think they need to hear it from you). One friend and the radio station he works for has already taken me up on this offer.

Telling your friends is Simple.
Donating takes only a couple of minutes and is Simple.

Thank you for your support.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Second half

The Long Walk through Grand Rapids continues in 2012 as I work to complete the second half of this crazy trip. By the end of this year, I will have walked 400 miles of Grand Rapids streets. Every street on the Northwest side is walked from end to end and a new quadrant is close. 2011 ended with a grand total of 300 miles in the fall.  That is past the half way mark.

All of this is to raise money for the MS Society. Please visit the links to the right to go to the donation site.

I realize, especially in these times, that not everyone will be able to donate. I will wager though, that you know someone who can and will, so I ask that you share this blog with your friends.

Thanks for your support in the past, and thanks for continuing to support the Long Walk in Grand Rapids to benefit the MS Society!