Sunday, August 23, 2009

End of the road...and looking ahead.

I have been procrastinating horribly in getting this entry written. It has now been about three weeks since the end of our trip, and I suppose I've needed a break from it, mentally as well as physically. However, a recent email from Ethan at GiveForward has provided me with a needed kick in the butt. His recent coverage of the Chuck 300 on the Play City blog includes an interview with me which I provided shortly after coming home from the Hoe Down. I have copied some relevant excerpts below which serve to recap some of the highlights from our trip.

Q: What were some of the cool things you saw/people you met along the way?

We met so many people who were friendly and helpful, whether it was just people giving us directions or offering us something to drink. We stopped at a park in this small town in Pennsylvania and the park manager came by to see what we were up to. By the time we were done talking, he was offering to call over to some recreation center, or maybe it was a school, to get them to let us come in and take showers. We didn't take him up on it because we had miles to go, but the offer was impressive anyway. And at our last campground, the owners of the camp not only donated our $50 camping fee to the fundraiser, they gave us free firewood. Extremely nice folks.
As for sights, our walk started out by going through Arlington National Cemetery, then on through Georgetown which was very picturesque. There was a lot of beautiful countryside that we walked and rode our bikes through along the whole route. The scenic overlook on Pike's Peak outside of Williamsport was great. Not that it was all postcard material, we did some travelling along various highways that were not so scenic. And there were also times when we were, honestly, just too hot and exhausted to appreciate the scenery.

Q: 300 miles is quite a long way to hike in a week. Was there ever a point during the journey where you thought "what the heck am I doing?" and wanted to quit?

Well first, we didn't walk the whole thing. Pretty early on in our planning for this trip, we abandoned the idea that we would be able to make 300 miles in the time we had if we did it all on foot. So we decided we would bike parts of it. That's why, even though I was originally calling it the "Walk For Chuck," we soon started just calling it the "Chuck 300." I didn't know until we really got going on the trip itself just how much would be biking versus walking. Ultimately, we ended up walking only 50 miles and biking 250. However, lest anybody think that we were just making it easy on ourselves, I can assure you that we still suffered plenty!
There were two guys who had signed on from the beginning to bike the whole way, Todd and Greg. And those guys were serious bikers, so they were used to high mileage rides. But for Jenn and Zoe and I, we'd been focusing most of our training on walking. And most of the bike training that we did was on fairly flat ground when temperatures were relatively cool. So to suddenly go from that to peddling through the hills of central Pennsylvania with temperatures in the 80s and 90s, it was a real shock to the system. On one day in particular, I think we were all suffering from mild heat exhaustion. I wasn't eating enough because I was nauseous from exertion, and that lack of fuel compounded the problem. At the same time, I felt like I couldn't drink enough fluids to quench my thirst.
At the other extreme, we had lots of rain in the evening and morning hours. Toward the end of our first day of riding in Maryland, we ran into four roads that were closed because of downed trees from a severe thunderstorm that just missed us. And while we could get around the trees on our bikes, our support van couldn't. So there were a lot of detours. The rain always managed to slow us down, either in setting camp up and cooking dinner or taking camp down and preparing breakfast, pretty much every day. As a result, we had a lot of late nights and a lot of late starts in the morning. That meant less time for walking and more time that had to be made up on our bikes.
So to get back to your question, there were many times when I wished I could quit. But short of suffering some serious injury, I knew there was no way I would quit. We had come too far to let thunderstorms, heat or exhaustion get in our way. And whenever things got really tough, we would just think about what Chuck has gone through. Even before he started his ongoing battle with cancer, his three weeks saving pigs in Iowa were much harder than our one week of walking and riding bikes.
Q: Any funny stories from the trip?
it's hard to say. We laughed a lot along the way but it's hard to tell how much of it was from something that was genuinely funny and how much was from us just being exhausted to the point where anything is funny. However, our film crew took over 20 hours of video footage that they are now beginning to edit together into a documentary. So I look forward to seeing that and laughing at it all from a different perspective.
The bottom line is, I'm just grateful that we all made it through the trip without any serious injuries. I'm grateful to have had the chance to spend so much time with a truly amazing group of people. And I'm grateful we could do something to help Chuck, a great friend and a hero to me. In the grand scheme of things, the money we raised will probably only make a small difference in the course of his treatment and his life from here on out, but I hope that seeing the sincere love and good intentions that motivated all those miles and all those contributions is something that will give him hope well beyond the money alone.

Q: Anything else you want to add?
Well, I always have to give major credit first and foremost to the whole Chuck 300 team. Everybody brought something to the table. My mom in particular, as our support van, was invaluable. She took charge of getting camp set up and taken down, getting groceries, preparing meals, bringing us refreshments when we were dying from the heat. She even did our laundry a few times. And she did it all was such a positive attitude, even though she hates camping. Also, Hugh and Terri Norwood who gave us a place to stay on our first night. Their hospitality was amazing. And Ken Helm at Sheshequin Campground who donated our camping fee to the cause and gave us free firewood; that was hands down the best camp ground we stayed in too.

That concludes the interview. If you'd like to see some of the photo highlights, check out these pictures from Mike.

Pictures from Greg. (Note, these are not organized in a "Chuck 300" set, but you can flip through the pages to find where the trip pictures are all uploaded in a series.)

And here are some from my camera.

In closing, I want to say again how grateful I am to all involved, from my team-mates to our donors to those who provided other material support. This adventure may have been germinated in my brain, but it took scores of people to make it a success and I never would have made it to mile one without my truly inspiring co-adventurers. Thank you all so very much.

Also, I want to give a special thanks here to Mike and Bryce. They had the "easy" job of filming this journey, and those of us who were walking and biking may have envied the comfort of their air conditioned car. But while the rest of us will now be resting easy as summer fades into fond memories, these guys will be spending countless hours in the editing room, logging gigabytes of video files and putting it all together into what I'm sure will be an outstanding piece of film work. We are all eagerly awaiting the premier, and I wish them patience and fortitude as they get down to their labors.

Finally, I encourage everyone to continue following Chuck and Jen's journey on the Chuck Pappas Story blog. Most recently, they made the tough decision to take Chuck out of a clinical trial for the experimental drug that was supposed to be inhibiting the growth of blood vessels in the tumor. While it was not easy to give up on the prospect of a potentially valuable treatment, the side effects from that drug were just too severe. Now that he has stopped taking it, he is feeling more like his old self. And I have no doubt that other, better treatments will be coming down the pike. Please continue to offer your love, your optimism and whatever support you can provide as the continue on their path.


Monday, August 3, 2009

Thank you!

First, a note of clarification. I had thought that our GiveForward fundraiser was to expire at the end of the day today. Instead, it expired at the beginning of the day. So unfortunately, donations can no longer be made through that site. HOWEVER, it is definitely not to late to send in your contribution to the Chuck 300 fundraiser. Checks can still be made out to

Charles Pappas Supplemental Needs Trust

And they can be mailed to:

Charles & Jennifer Pappas
183 Mill Road
Chelmsford, MA 01824

While I will next be talking about the great success of our fundraiser overall, Chuck and Jen still need our support, and will continue to need our support for a long time. It is a tragic reality that getting sick in our society is enormously expensive, and the cost of adequate medical treatment for a serious illness is far beyond the means of most Americans. Let's not forget about Chuck and Jen in the days, months and years to come. Your love, your letters, your phone calls, your shoulders to lean on, and your generosity have been a light in their lives; please keep that alive.

With that preamble, I want to let everyone know that our GiveForward fundraiser was a smashing success. As of midnight last night, our total was $12,539! That is an extraordinary sum, and it could not have happened without the amazing generosity of so many people, including more than a hundred people who made donations of $50 or less. It really did add up!

We also had a LOT of people who donated $100, which really pushed the meter forward. In no particular order, I'd like to recognize those people. (Please note that the donation tranactions were usually completed by one person, but in many cases, that person was giving on behalf of a couple. When possible, I have tried to include the name of the spouse/partner):

John Martinson and Mary Day
Megan Daoust
Ari Solomon
Gail Martinson and Chuck Hodge
Dena Miller
Maya Gottfried
David Benzaquen
Ruth Santana
Celeste Donovan
Mariann Sullivan and Jasmin Singer
Debrah Schnackenberg
Michelle Waffner
Patricia Benton and Steve Stratton
Michael Frank
Nicola Leske
Stephanie Strangis
Amy Quinn
Nile Butta
Kendra Coppey
Molly Alissa Glen
Shannon Lynch
John M Mulcahy
Sean Owen
Anna Paternoster
Don Walker
Joan Gusic
Chelsea Peoples
Gene Baur
Mike and Melissa Reed
And more than one Anonymous

Next, we had ten extremely generous donations between $100 and $499:

Ian and Tricia Barry
Bradley Goldberg
Barb and Greg Lomow
JB Mulcahy and Diana Goodrich
Erin Howard
Jeannette Sepulveda
Monica Jain
Diane Miller
Kevin Hoffman
Penny and Gary Smith

Finally, I'd like to give special recognition to our six biggest donors, all of whom gave $500 or more.

Rory Freedman is one celebrity who is an amazing source of inspiration in the public eye, having co-written the revolutionary Skinny Bitch series of books, a series whose impact on the way people eat can not be overstated. But what really impresses me about Rory is how humble and genuine she is, even after selling millions of books. When I first started posting information about the Chuck 300 on Facebook, Rory was one of the first people to really push the story out there. She challenged her Facebook friends to donate $500 to Chuck, and then she matched that collective donation to generate $1,000 total. It was our first big break, and I remain incredibly grateful. I am a fan of Rory for life.

Amy Spagnole is an intellectual property rights attorney who attended middle school with Chuck. And while they had not been in contact for years, Amy clearly remembered Chuck as an amazing guy (who doesn't?) and was touched by his story. Her generous contribution was a truly heart warming surprise for Chuck and for all of us.

Scott James worked with Chuck and Jen at Lesley University when they all lived in the Boston area. Like Amy, he has not been in close contact with the them since their paths diverged years ago, but also like Amy, he is obviously someone whose charitable spirit transcends time and proximity.

Hugh and Terri Norwood... Where do I begin? As I wrote shortly after our Chuck 300 team spent the night at their home in Maryland, the depth of their support and the hospitality they showed to us was just amazing. I can't thank them enough, but I'll continue to try.

And finally, Dan D’Eramo and Jessica Parry are friends and former colleagues who worked closely with Chuck on Farm Sanctuary's Watkins Glen shelter. Dan was with Chuck last summer when the two of them spent three grueling weeks rescuing factory farm pigs from severe flooding in Iowa. And when all those pigs and piglets came home to Farm Sanctuary, Dan and Jess dedicated tireless hours of round-the-clock care to making sure their charges got everything they needed to recover fully. They brought that same level of dedication to their jobs every day, and their presence at the Farm is sorely missed now that they have moved on. But while they now live far away, their compassion continues to shine through. Their donation in the final hour of our fundraiser put us over the 50% mark and allowed us to finish with one hell of a bang. Dan and Jess, you guys rock!

I have a million other people to thank, and many people listed above to thank again, for support provided outside the confines of the GiveForward fundraiser itself, and those acknowledgements will take me a bit longer to compile. But I wanted to at least have the thanks above posted today, to mark the end of the fundraiser. To all of you who pulled out your wallets in the spirit of love, kindness and compassion, know that you have participated in something beautiful. I know that Chuck and Jen and their family, are extremely grateful to you.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Tomorrow is the deadline! Please give!

Dear friends and supporters,

We survived! We made it! All the way from Washington DC to Watkins Glen on bikes and on foot! 300 miles! And we still, miraculously, had just a little energy left for the spectacular as always, Hoe Down festivities at Farm Sanctuary.

Wow.... I'm not even fully awake at this moment. But I am hoping and praying that a few more wonderful people who have just learned about our 300 Miles For Chuck will find their way to this website before the end of the day tomorrow and make a donation. As it stands right now, we have reached 45% of our goal. I don't expect that we'll reach 100% by tomorrow, but with your help, maybe we can push the meter a few more points for Chuck and Jen, two of the most amazing and compassionate and generous people you could ever hope to meet. If you can help, please go to (see link above right) and make a secure, online donation. It is quick and easy, and you'll feel good about yourself all day long!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

We made it!

We made it! I promise to provide full details tomorrow, but now I have a Hoe Down to attend!

Monday, July 27, 2009


If I were going to give a full recount of everything that happened yesterday, we'd never get going today. But here were some of the highlights.

Left the hotel at around 8:30, Jenn, Zoe and I on foot while Greg and Todd rode their bikes.

Took a pedestrian/bike path near the hotel to get to Arlington National Cemetery. About a mile into the path, we ran into a fork in the road and had to stop and ask for directions from a gentleman passing by us on his bike. When we told him we were trying to get to Arlington National Cemetery, his expression became serious. "I gotta be honest with you, you've got a long walk ahead of you." Little did he know.

Had a pleasant walk through Arlington, Georgetown and Chevy Chase. At Chevy Chase Circle we stopped for a break. Inside the traffic circle there is a small park with a large fountain. Despite the rather gross and green looking water, I took of my shoes and socks to give my feet a soak. The cold water felt wonderful after 12ish miles of walking.

Met up with our support vehicle a few miles later in the parking lot of a library. (Somewhere around mile 15). We had PB&J for lunch, except for Greg who eats only raw food. He had a portobella mushroom cap with guacamole spread on top, which looked pretty good. We got on our bikes then - amazing what a difference it makes going from 3mph on foot to 10-20mph on the bikes.

We were making good time on the bikes but it suddenly was getting extremely hot. I felt like I was bordering on heat exhaustion more than once, and I think I wasn't alone. I was really grateful to have Todd leading the way as we pedaled through some fairly heavy traffic.

Near mile 35, we were approaching Sykesville and some of those scattered thunderstorms we'd seen in the forecast decided to visit the area. While the girls and I rode through a merely refreshing (and brief) downpour, things were much more severe north of us. We soon came upon a car accident, which we were able to walk around. Then after a long and exhilarating downhill ride, we were brought to a stop by two trees that had fallen across the road. We phoned back to the rest of the group, who had taken a shorter route toward Hugh and Terri's house, and they too had run into a tree on the road.

We turned around and walked our bikes back up that long hill. My quads were starting to cramp up from lack of fuel. By the time we got, back the accident had been cleared away. My mom came and picked us up. We drove in a third direction to try to get around the blocked roads and ran into another fallen tree. Turned around and navigated to a forth detour. That brought us within 0.3 miles of Hugh and Terri's house where ANOTHER tree was down, along with some power lines. So we backtracked again and finally, we made it to the house, where everyone was sitting around in the candle light.

Terri had prepared some amazing food for us; chips, salsa, guacamole, sweet potato black bean burritos, corn on the cob and Soy Delicious ice cream for dessert with fresh berries on top. Wow. We stayed up and talked till around 11, then unrolled our sleeping bags on the floor for some well deserved rest.

Power is back on this morning. 44 miles ahead of us today. I'm going to take a shower and grab some breakfast. Hugh and Terri have been fantastic hosts and we owe them a huge debt of gratitude. We won't see accommodations this nice again!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Driving Down To DC

Left at 8:30 yesterday morning. The first 4 hours were winding through country roads, some little more than seasonal horse and buggy paths. Incredibly scenic, but we had to pay extremely close attention to the map as the turns seem to come every half mile. In several places, road signs did not match our directions and we had to improvise. The afternoon found us on more civilized roads, but again having to improvise where Google maps wanted to send us onto less pedestrian/bike friendly roads. Pennsylvania Bike Route J looks like a promising alternate route for several miles. Arrived at TAFA at 7:30. Went to Bus Boys for dinner. Outstanding vegan quesadillas. Slept til 10 AM, the first real sleep in two days, and it felt great. Staffed the Farm Sanctuary table in the exhibit hall from 12:30 to 3 today, and talked with many great activists. We're anxious to get started tomorrow and meeting in the hotel lobby around 7:45.
This message is transcribed from a voice mail message.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

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This is a test of our mobile blogging system.