Friday, April 29, 2011

setting things in motion

As you know, I'm trying to recruit volunteers to help out with the upcoming walk's planning, fundraising, etc. One of my projects last weekend was the creation of a flier to distribute among high school students who regularly attend one of the tutoring centers where I work. That particular branch of my company is located across the street from W.T. Woodson High School in Fairfax, Virginia. Most of the high schoolers I tutor come from Woodson, in fact, and I'm hoping to rope some in.

Today, I contacted Woodson about the possibility of using one of their rooms for one or more meetings, and was transferred to the office of Mr. John Kenny, an activities director. He asked that I send him an email detailing my needs; I sent that off almost an hour ago, along with the MS Word version of the flier I've given to a few students. Because I sent it near the end of the school day, I don't expect to hear from him until early next week.

Meanwhile, I'm planning to impose-- gently-- on my colleagues at both of the branches where I teach, to ask them to distribute these fliers to their high schoolers (in fact, I've already approached two fellow teachers about this). I have no idea how many people might show up to the first meeting, which I've set for Friday, May 20, at 8PM, but I'm hoping that we have at least twenty.

Here's the text of the flier. Front side:

WOULD YOU LIKE TO VOLUNTEER? [Changed from "Thank you for reading this," which is on 40 copies of the first version of the flier.]

WHO: Kevin (C2 tutor, Centreville and Fairfax) and a group of committed volunteers—primarily high school students and any interested C2 faculty/staff

WHAT: Meeting to begin to discuss planning and preparation for a large-scale personal project: a walk across the Lower 48

WHEN: Friday evening, May 20, 2011, at about 8PM (details to follow)

WHERE: W.T. Woodson High School (specific room to be determined)

WHY: Cross-country walk on behalf of victims of glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most common and most aggressive form of brain cancer

HOW: The “how” of this project is precisely what we’ll be discussing. Topics for the first meeting (which might run anywhere from 1 to 2 hours) will include:

-deciding on a walking route (very likely the American Discovery Trail, or “ADT”)

-deciding on a start date for the walk (either September this year, or early next year)

-discussing local fundraising opportunities and strategies

-discussing PR/marketing to raise awareness about the walk along the walk’s route

Can we make this happen? Would you be interested in helping out? If so, please read the other side for more details and RSVP as soon as possible to the following email address:

And now the flier's back page, which is much more detailed:

Greetings! Thank you for picking up this flyer, despite not knowing what it might be about. Long story short: I’m looking for volunteers who would be willing to help me with a massive personal project.

A bit of background:
On April 16, 2009, two days before I was to return to a cross-country walk that began in 2008 (I managed to walk about 600 miles as part of a personal exploration of American religious diversity), my mother exhibited symptoms of severe cognitive impairment. At first, we thought this might have been a stroke, and we took her to the ER. What we discovered, instead, was a significant mass on the surface of her left frontal lobe. This turned out to be glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the same sort of brain cancer that eventually killed Senator Ted Kennedy. For patients over 60, the prognosis is grim. Most GBM victims die within 11-13 months of diagnosis. An exceedingly small number of people manage to defy the statistics and live longer than two years; a very small handful of people has managed to survive 10-15 years with no recurrence of GBM after treatment. Senator Kennedy survived fifteen months post-diagnosis—two months beyond the upper threshold. My mother, unfortunately, died nine months after her diagnosis—two months under the lower threshold. She passed away on January 6, 2010, at 8:03AM.

That was how 2010 began for me and my family: with the death of my mother. Over the next several months, I remained at my parents’ house to help my father complete a renovation project that began before Mom’s cancer, and which was put aside during her illness. I moved out to my own place in November, having gotten a job as a TOEFL essay rater for ETS (the same company that makes the dreaded SAT, AP, etc. exams). This job lasted only a few months due to the “low season” for TOEFL testers; I switched to C2 this past March, and have enjoyed making the acquaintance of so many bright students and fellow tutors.

What I’m doing now:
I’m hoping to return to my trans-American walk—the walk that ended after only 600 miles in the fall of 2008. This time, however, I plan to walk on behalf of all past, present, and future victims of GBM, in an effort to raise money and awareness for GBM research. At the moment, I’m somewhat torn as to the start time for the walk. For personal reasons, I’d prefer to begin it this coming September, but I’m beginning to think it would be more practical to begin it early next year.

What I need from you, if you’re willing:
A project of this scale can’t be realized without help from all corners. A lot has to be done: route planning, equipment prep, PR, lodging arrangements, research into terrain and weather, etc. I need a team of committed volunteers who might be willing to help me with these tasks. Walking across the country means walking somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,500 to over 4,000 miles, depending on the route. I’m seriously considering using the American Discovery Trail, which is the only officially walkable route across the mainland United States. The trail has advantages and disadvantages; these need to be considered before I can finalize my itinerary. Discussing these things as a group would be a great help to me. (NB: students who need to fulfill community service requirements could probably use this project to do so!)

How this all begins:
I teach at the Fairfax branch of C2 on Wednesdays. The Fairfax branch is right across the street from Woodson High School, and I’m going to speak with the high school’s main office about the possibility of reserving a classroom—preferably one that allows for multimedia presentations and chalkboard/white board work—for a group of us to meet semi-regularly. So here’s the question: would you be willing to help me with this crazy project? If you are, please RSVP to this invitation by emailing me at If you’re a student (or, hey, even if you’re a colleague of mine), feel free to include your parents. Their help would be appreciated. I haven’t fixed a meeting date and time yet, but as I wrote, I’d like us to meet at Woodson High School. As for the meeting date, it would be in late May: Friday evening, May 20, probably around 8PM, to give most people time for dinner. If you email me with your RSVP, I’ll be able to email you back with more specific information as the meeting day nears.

High school seniors, who are graduating soon and will be prepping for college, will have to consider their summer schedules before RSVP-ing. So will everyone else (people travel during the summer), but in truth, the state of technology is such that we can all keep in touch from practically anywhere on the planet. In fact, I’m probably going to be making extensive use of my smart phone’s GPS and email/Skype/Twitter capabilities during the walk.

Pertinent websites and contact info:
My blog, Kevin’s Walk, was originally about the 2008 religious diversity walk. When I came back home, the blog switched gears to reflect the fact that I was recuperating from my knee injury and was writing about whatever came to mind—academic topics, sci-fi, books, and slices of life. In April of 2009, the blog shifted emphasis as I began to chronicle our family’s struggle with brain cancer. I did this in part to keep friends and relatives informed of what was going on with Mom, and in part because I felt it was my duty to remember this harrowing time in our lives. The blog is located at: I also maintain a Twitter feed at

If you, Dear Reader, happen to be local to Fairfax County and would like to be a part of this effort, please think about attending the May 20 meeting and send me your RSVP ( I'll be creating a mailing list and emailing everyone with the particulars once I find out the specific room we'll be using.

Also note that there's a chance that Woodson might not be able to provide a meeting space for that evening. If that happens, we'll switch gears and meet at a fallback location in the same general area. I'm anticipating about 20 to 35 people showing up, but would be delighted to see a crowd of 100 or more... although that might mean changing venues. Anyway, please RSVP within the next two weeks so that I have a ballpark notion of how many attendees to expect. Thanks in advance!


No comments: