Walkabout Wisconsin – February 25, 2011
In the 1950’s Don and Marilyn Schaefer attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Both of them were graduates of Edgewood Catholic High School, in Madison, WI. Don was a gifted athlete and Marilyn was a wonderful musician. Don played for the UW-Badger Football team and Marilyn played the clarinet in the famous UW Marching Band. They got married and had seven children: Greg, Susie, Colleen, Timmy, Peggy, Stuart & Bridget. Our lives growing up only a few blocks from Camp Randall Stadium (where the UW-Badgers still play) was busy and happy. Our 100% Irish mom played the harp and we were always running around having fun in the neighborhood. In reality, it was pretty chaotic with that many kids and Timmy’s extra energy – Thank God for our mom’s calming harp music in the midst of all of it! All of us kids have wonderful memories of our childhood. Eventually everyone went off to college, got married and life went on. In 1990 Don and Marilyn died together in a car accident on their way home from one of their granddaughter’s music recitals. Luckily, our parent’s had raised all of us to be best friends and to rely on our faith for strength. We’ve always leaned on these two things.
Our brother, Timmy, was a special needs guy who would require special care and eventually had to live in an institution and later in his adult life lived in a “group home” with one other boy named David. Amazingly enough, Timmy and David shared their birthday (February 25). We all went on with our lives and visited Timmy as often as possible. He had a schedule of his own and would get a van ride everyday to his job doing dishes at a day care. He loved his routine even when it got harder for him due to the fact that he was depending on his wheelchair. Eventually he lost his job and then kept busy at an activities center for people with disabilities. He spent about 95% of his day in his wheelchair that was not fitted properly. Eventually Timmy developed a wound on his ankle caused by the hardware rubbing on his ankle. In March 2010, a few days after his 53rd birthday, Timmy died peacefully in his sleep. The streamers and balloons were still up in the kitchen from David and Timmy’s birthday.
On a side note, I was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in April 2009. Two local healthcare facilities told me that it was inoperable and incurable and I had about a year to live. Well, at the time I had a 10 year old, 13 year old and 16 year old, a wonderful husband, a business, etc. so I just couldn’t take the information and believe it. I’m not sure where it came from (I think it was my Dad). I just stood up and thanked the doctor who did the brain biopsy for his accuracy, took the tissue sample results and looked for a better prognosis. Long story short, we were blessed to be led to City of Hope in Duarte, California, and I had successful brain surgery, participated in a wonderful experimental clinical trial, radiation/chemo and I’m still here to smile and talk about it today! The biggest risk of my brain surgery was that I could come out of surgery paralyzed on my left side (because the tumor was on the right side of my brain). We felt I had nothing to lose in going forth with this surgery and treatment protocol, and I felt extremely sure that we had found the best surgeon and facility for a successful outcome. I came to the brink of the reality that I too may be dependant on a wheelchair for my daily activities. I tried to think positive that I was right handed and I would still be able to write, paint or throw a ball. I still to this very day wake up each morning and point and flex my left foot and smile graciously that I have the ability for mobility! It’s truly nothing to take for granted.
It was this past Christmas when we were all gathered that I started realizing how much had happened in the past year or so – I felt the loss of Timmy and Colleen (all of our favorite sister who had died in 1995). All of this joy and sorrow all wrapped together lead me to really start thinking about where I was heading next. I am healthy, 100% cancer free – which is truly a miracle! I must have a higher mission to be called to – a way I can pay back for what I’ve received. I’ve always prayed a lot throughout my day – sometimes even for small practical things, other times for big picture “world peace” prayers. Now I found myself praying “God, thank you, thank you, thank you, for this gift of life and mobility! The words just aren’t enough to express myself. Please show me the way”. Weeks passed and I kept on praying as usual…”Holy Spirit, show me the way”…then one day as I was praying and going about my usual day I kept hearing a word “Walkabout, walkabout, walkabout”….then it would go away. Then as the day went on it kept happening… I finally just smiled and thought “ok, God, I will look into what walkabout means!” I was feeling as though I had heard about this term as a “spiritual walkabout” or maybe something I was briefly exposed to at a Wellness conference or something. So then, I just decided to do what most Americans do when they want to learn about something – I went to my computer and Googled “Walkabout” – and this is how I came about The Walkabout Foundation and met Carolina and Luis as I explored their website and read their blog. All of this may sound like some crazy fictional story, when in fact, it’s all true. I am so very excited to have found this foundation to support and even though I haven’t met Carolina yet, I feel as though I’ve known her my whole life!
So, this past weekend, I decided to raise awareness for The Walkabout Foundation by coordinating a simple one mile walk. Emphasizing that this was not an event that you needed to be a highly trained athlete to participate in, you just needed to get together with your family/friends and walk and be aware of how lucky you are to be able to walk and to consider supporting those that are not as fortunate. Forty five Walkabout t-shirts were distributed. We had people walking in many different locations throughout Wisconsin, a family walking in Minnesota and for our ”snowbird” sister, who loves the Midwest, walking in Scottsdale, AZ. All of us walked either Friday, February 25th (Timmy’s birthday) or that weekend sometime.
The Walkabout Foundation is making a huge difference in people’s lives. There are many many ways that people can end up depending on a wheelchair. For those who do, they can find hope in a safe mobile solution through The Walkabout Foundation. I am very excited to become a supporter of this foundation that Carolina has started with her brother Luis! The future is ours to build together!
With hope, Bridget
After undergoing a successful brain surgery and coping with the loss of her special-needs brother Timmy, Bridget Hanchette felt the urge to give back. She decided to organize a mile-long walkabout in her native Wisconsin to raise awareness for the Walkabout Foundation in honor of Timmy, and had 45 friends and family members join her.
If you would like to organize your own “walkabout” in your hometown or city, please contact us directly and we will send you all the information and materials you will need to kick-start your own event. We won’t stop until we’ve reached all 50 states!