"Please, Mom, let me go on `the Walk' with you," begged my seven year old. "If Andy can do it, so can I."
The "Walk" that Steven was speaking of was a rugged twenty-two-mile loop, beginning and ending in nearby Santa Rosa, California, and winding up along the beautiful coastal mountain roads. Dubbed "Walk for Mankind," it was conceived to raise money for Project Concern, an organization attempting to minister to medical needs in such areas as Hong Kong, South Viet Nam, and Appalachia. Funds were secured by each walker's enlisting "sponsors" who pledged a certain amount per mile competed by the walker.
After my husband and I discussed it, we agreed to let Steven accompany me, though I was skeptical of his going very far. We had discovered his diabetes over six years ago, when he was a chubby toddler of sixteen months. Ever since we had encouraged him to exercise all that he would, but exercising or any athletic pursuits seemed to interest him not at all. Before starting school, he had little stamina, especially when the weather was hot, but after three years of daily, half-mile walks to and from school, in all kinds of weather, his endurance had improved markedly.
On the day of "the Walk," it was still dark outside with I roused Steven at 5 a.m. Quietly we downed a hearty breakfast, injected his 19 units of NPH insulin, and slipped out of the house without waking my husband or the three younger children.
The fishing vest I wore was packed with a variety of high energy foods, including raisins, dried prunes, meat sticks, apples, hard candy, and peanut butter sandwiches. Beverages would be available along the route.
|The check point card he holds was Steven's passport to be shown when claiming pledge money.|
Steven Schoch and his mother:|
They walk for mankind.
After picking up Steven's classmate, Andy, his parents, and four other friends, we registered, and began walking shortly after 6 a.m. It was a beautiful May morning, cool and crisp, but the absence of fog or clouds promised much warmer temperatures by afternoon.
Officials at the first few check points smiled as Steven presented his Walk Card to be stamped. "Do you plan to walk all the way?", he was asked. I could see a determined look on his face as he nodded.
I saw little of him all morning, as he ran ahead with Andy, dropping back occasionally to request some food from my well-stocked vest.
Before noon he began to droop a bit. When we stopped for lunch, I asked if he wanted to quit. He emphatically refused. After a light lunch and a brief rest, he was eager to continue.
The afternoon wore on. The temperature climbed, finally reaching 89°, and I was feeling every step with my blistered feet and aching muscles. Sucking on hard candies, an infrequent treat for him, Steven sauntered beside me, stopping now and then to investigate something along the road that caught his fancy.
The others had gone ahead out of sight, and it was nearing 5 p.m. As we approached the twenty-mile mark, I confessed to Steven that I would have to quit. He begged to be allowed to continue alone, but I insisted that he stop, too.
Later I regretted not pushing myself to continue, for I let him down and he was bitterly disappointed. He could have finished the final two miles easily. Neverless, I feel it was a personal triumph for him, at seven years old, to walk, uncomplaining and eager, for twenty miles.
There have been ups and downs in the past six years, as we have learned to cope with Steven's diabetes, but after that May "Walk," I'll never doubt that he can accomplish almost anything he sets out to do.