· The best way to describe the weekend was as a reunion among friends I’ve never met. Despite others’ differing opinions, I’m usually pretty shy around folks I’ve never met. But this past weekend was different. Perhaps it’s just the way things are in this day and age of social media, but I felt as comfortable with everyone as I do my own family (maybe even more so!)
· There were so many folks I didn’t meet that were in attendance. After reading some of the aforementioned Facebook postings, I realized there were several folks at the walk (and even at the hotel lounge on Friday night) that I failed to talk to because I just didn’t realize who they were and vice versa. Next time maybe we all need to wear nametags with our Facebook icons. J
· I was glad to meet so many on my “must meet” list. I was especially happy that I asked Tara Gill to repeat her name 20 minutes or so after initial introductions in the loud bar. She was one on my “must meet” list that almost got by without a hug.
· Mark and Rich’s tutus. What can I say? Funny thing is, by the end of the day, it just seemed like their normal attire.
· I loved the Rev. Carol’s prayer during the opening ceremonies. I also loved that she encouraged folks to “get connected.” Our voice online is a loud voice, but I realized that we were a minority in attendance at the walk. Imagine if every person there (probably well over 500) blogged or at least shared sun-safety on their Facebook accounts! Thanks for the reminder Rev….let’s hope others get connected.
· One of the most emotional statements made at the walk was, “One day we’ll check out at the grocery store and the clerk will ask, ‘Would you like to donate a dollar to melanoma research?’”
· Freedom Park is a beautiful park and great for such an event!
· My GPS led me from the hotel to the park via a very swanky neighborhood…but not past a Starbucks. I finally found it AFTER the walk when I traveled a different route. And yes Chelsea, it looked like a house.
· One of my highlights was not only carrying the Spirit Sign for Jennifer Christie (and others), but having one of Jennifer’s close friends approach me and ask where she could get one. I gladly gave her mine and she seemed to light up with emotional pride.
· The unexpected post-walk tailgate party in the Sunseeker RV (minus the Sun) was a real treat. My family and I got to spend some time with our intriguing friend Donna with whom we shared the entire walk. Our host also coaxed Chelsea into sharing a wine or two or… (how many times did the police circle the RV?). I have to say it was a true pleasure to meet Chelsea in such a sit-down-and-talk environment. She was exactly as I imagined…funny, bright, and gracious. She may have been wearing a tiara, but she was no “diva.” She, and her family which joined in later (yes, 9 people total in an RV at once) couldn’t be nicer or more genuine folks that anyone would want to know.
· It was incredible to walk among people who “get it.” I think each one of us in the melanoma community feel a lot of frustration when we share our stories and thoughts with others who don’t care to really listen. Over this past weekend, we all got it. We all spouted off the facts and figures. We all shared the joys of medical triumph and the sorrow of lost loved ones. We all came together with a shared mindset…and for me personally, it gave me the much needed boost to keep my campaign going. I’m not alone…you’re not alone. WE will make a difference!
· Finally, as amazing as this event was, it shouldn’t be considered “special.” At least not more special than any other. Don’t get me wrong, it was incredible to have this reunion of friends we never met. It had a near miraculous feel about it. There were more hugs and smiles shared than I can recall in a long, long time. But this AIM walk is one of many…and AIM is one of several organizations that host such events. EVERY walk is special. Each event raises funds and awareness. Don’t let all the blogs and Facebook posts make you think that this was the ONLY event in which to participate. Hardly. It’s one of many, and I encourage everyone to find such an event near you. AIM. MRF. Miles Against Melanoma. Outrun the Sun. Each one helps our campaign to raise awareness.