Eight States, Two Rings, One Cause

I’m sitting in Southern California, with the sun warming my
face and the ocean sparkling just across the Pacific Coast Highway. The morning
chill has gone and with it the misty rain and blanket of fog. In a little while
I’ll stick my toes in the sand and then we’ll join other guests at Casa Laguna
for their evening reception.

But for now I want to take a moment to reflect. When the
idea for this journey came up over a year ago it was just a lark. A couple of
writers were going to travel The Mother Road and document our experiences for
fame, fun, and fortune. We’d get sponsors and sell advertising and just have a
grand time. That partnership collapsed, but in its place arose something
significant both personally and professionally.

Professionally I’ve been planning on expanding The Local
for years. The core concept of the site is to help people have fun and
get the most out of their free time, and that applies to more cities than just
Chicago. When it was clear that the journey would not happen as originally
planned or with my original partner, it became a great opportunity to test the
waters, so to speak, of bringing my concept across the country. So far I’ve
been thrilled with the possibilities.

The personal significance is much more profound. About two
and a half years ago I met Jason Sissel, founder of Endure To Cure. We sat down
for coffee so I could interview him for my site about his charity, which uses
feats of endurance to bring awareness to and to raise money for pediatric
cancer research, treatment, and care. Somehow out of that conversation came a
commitment from me to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and to raise almost $20,000. Either
he’s persuasive, I’m crazy, or a little of both.

Actually, I committed so quickly because Jason’s story
resonated with me. He began Endure To Cure after two of his grandparents passed
away from cancer. I, too, have lost two grandparents to the disease. My
maternal grandfather died after years of battling complications from smoking
and my paternal grandmother, on whose birthday I was born, died from Leukemia.
Not only that, but my maternal grandmother is a breast cancer survivor and the
first funeral I ever attended was my aunt’s after she succumbed to ovarian

You could say cancer and my family don’t get along. The
truth is you could say that about anybody’s family.

I committed to Endure To Cure because cancer in adults is
bad enough, as I’ve seen personally, but when it hits children it’s even more
devastating and reprehensible, and you wonder how something could be so
diabolical. In 2009 I had the opportunity to visit St. Jude’s Children’s
Research Hospital with singer/songwriter David Kav for Writing The Rails. The
two of us rode Amtrak from Chicago to Memphis to raise money for the hospital.
Along the way he played gigs and wrote songs and I traveled with him to
document the experience and help out where I could. We arrived just a few weeks
before Christmas so they invited David to roam the children’s ward like a
wandering minstrel, playing carols and happy songs. We couldn’t enter any of
the rooms but some children followed us around with smiles on their faces and they
sang along when they could. With the exception of having my own child, it was
the most moving experience of my life.

That’s how traveling Route 66 turned into something more
than a lark and into something with a higher purpose.  For most of the trip I’ve been wearing two
rings: an emerald one, which was a gift from my grandfather, and a ruby one,
which had been my grandmother’s. As I write this, I look down at these rings,
and I hope my grandparents are looking down at me with pride.

I’ll be climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro later this year and am
trying to raise $19,340 (one for every foot of the mountain) before I go. I’ve
raised $1,771 so far plus we’ve raised an additional $100 on this trip. If you’d
like to donate to Endure To Cure and help them help kids with cancer, please
visit thelocaltourist.com/helpushelpkids for more information.

Special thanks to GM
for supporting our mission with the fantastic 2011 Chevrolet Camaro we’ve
nicknamed Charlie, and to Combos for not only providing us with snacks for the
road but with gift cards to cover our gas. 






Leave a Reply