Surrounded by many others living with gastroparesis, our friends and families, and a booth of beautiful chaos, my dear friend Angi pulls me aside. "Stephanie," she gasped, "this is amazing!" She quickly recalled where we started 3 years back - myself and a few incredibly supportive friends, with an idea to raise money and awareness for a condition few in my community understood. We looked around the corner of the busy farmer's market, and how many were gathered. Unlike the 1st year with mostly just locals to support a small event, we now saw large groups of others with GP, some meeting for the first time, bonding over challenges, similarities and a strong passion to advocate for our cause. A sea of awareness T's, hoodies and tanks, green jewelry and ribbons in our hair. Okay, perhaps more of a pond, but still, compared to before, it felt like a sea! In fact, my head was swimming between all the new friends I wanted to learn more about and others asking questions regarding donations, awareness items, auctions, raffles, and handouts.
While one person took care of payments and t-shirts, another answered questions about GP and the Digestive Health Alliance, where proceeds are donated. Someone walked around the market announcing to the Saturday morning crowd to stop by our booth while some very sweet kiddos handed out lemonade for donations. This year we had plenty of chairs set up for those who couldn't stand long and needed more rest. Like myself, others with GP that attended depend on either feeding tubes or IV lines for some if not all of their calories. They didn't let the heavy backpacks slowly dripping nutrition into their bodies stop them from being a part of the event. Some however, due to being too ill, recent procedures or tired or all of the above, could not attend but they were definitely with us in spirit.
As always, the walk was so peaceful, heading down the trail to the bay at Boulevard Park. We took time for pictures and to rest before the return. Total it is 3 miles, some walk and some stay behind to rest or help out at the booth. When 2pm quickly arrives, we announce the silent action winners. This year we used the 2nd donated Blendtec as a raffle (can't say enough how grateful I am to this company). For every $5 spent on awareness items or straight donation to DHA, a ticket was given. When it was time to put my hand in the bucket and pick 1 winner I could have cried because I wanted everyone there to win. Nervously I announced the name and it went to Amy, a GP'er in desperate need of a powerful gadget to help post future procedure that allows blended foods only. Her doctor had actually specifically recommended a Blendtec so it was meant to be!
When time arrived to break down and pack up it was both sad to end and say goodbye but also a relief to finally go home and lay down after such a long day. People were already talking about being excited for next year and ideas to make it bigger and better. This is not the end, so to say, but still the beginning of more to come. More awareness, more funds for research, and more research for answers that may one day give us answers if we are lucky, a cure.
Orders for awareness clothing and jewelry are still coming in so a final number raised is not set in stone So far, from online sales and the walk we have collected close to $3500. Though our goal was $5000 I feel getting people together and spreading awareness has become a huge part of what we do, so that in itself exceeds the financial goal. Thank you to everyone who helped organize, support and donated to this year's event, helping give us hope once again!
|Group photo from the walk halfway point at Boulevard Park.|
|GP warriors: Erin, Donna, and Amy|
|My GP Advocate partner Sarah and her awesome support pals|