It was January, 2003, and I was in Namibia working as a volunteer for an organization called "Children of the Wilderness," whose creation was inspired by Paul Newman, founder of "The Hole in the Wall Gang" and "Wilderness Safaris." For 12 weeks throughout the year, exclusive safari parks are closed to tourists and instead 24 school children aged 13-18 flock together to experience what may be their only vacation ever. They are brought out on safari each day, taught to track, guide, and protect the environment. The idea is to encourage poor impoverished children to continue their education so that they may go on to be guides and trackers needed to boost the African economy. In addition, an AIDS workshop provides them with the knowledge to make better personal decisions. My intent was to go and give to those who had so much less than I do. I left Namibia humbled.
So, I thought, I am young and healthy why not go out and do what I love best: partake in an extreme physical challenge simultaneously heralding a cause. The challenge has to pique the interest of those who may just want to do the same thing but for reasons of their own can't. These are the people who would possibly donate to the cause.
It is three years later and in five days, I will embark on the ultimate challenge of my life: A seven day, 150- mile, self-supporting foot race across the Sahara Desert. Why, you might ask, would any sane individual pay a lot of money to run a race through one of the hottest environments in the world, eat only freeze-dried food, not shower for a week, feel their brain broil under the sun while steadily plodding onward towards the next watering hole. All this just to end up sleeping on the ground in a tent with several other smelly people, and unless it's day seven, you will only wake up and do the same all over again!
It is so much easier to state the cause. Children. Several of my friends are most fortunate to have been on the receiving end of all the wondrous care the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) provided their children in a time of great need. In return, these children are happy and healthy, showering their families and myself with impulsive hugs and tireless chatter. Children are our immortality. It is our duty and it should be our desire, to make their young lives pain free. CHOP is instrumental in making this a reality for so many.
The following excerpt from Theodore Roosevelt's 1910 "Man in the Arena" speech, which I carry with me always, best expresses at this moment, why I am running this race:
"It is not the critic who counts, not the one who points out how the strong man stumbled or how the doer of deeds might have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred with sweat and dust and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, if he wins, knows the triumph of high achievement; and who, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."