Don't criticize someone, the adage goes, until you walk a mile in his shoes. But it takes a much longer walk — the full 130 miles — to understand the Road for Hope.
Eight days after departing Lewiston, Maine, on foot, almost 40 Saint Anselm students walked onto campus Saturday to cheers from family and friends. Their feet were blistered and t-shirts drenched, but their spirits soared as they kissed the ground and hugged their parents and siblings.
They camp in church basements and carry everything — mostly clothing and water — on their backs. Two vans, with an emergency medical technician and several nursing students, drive the route, but only drop their packs or accept a ride as a last resort. It's a matter of pride and accomplishment.
"They won't admit when they're in pain," nursing major Sam Varney '10 says, "especially the guys."
The evidence of the pain is their feet. Varney, along with EMTs Meg Wood '10 and Amanda O'Donnell '11, evaluate and bandage the sore feet — and sometimes recommend a time out. Suggesting a break from walking to students who each raised $500 in pledges this summer was not easy.
The walkers arrived in Rochester, N.H., on Wednesday, and were greeted by hugs from a dozen children from St. Charles' Children's Home. The home, a center for children to teens in transition between family circumstances, is an annual beneficiary of the walk and opens their doors, offering the walkers a room for the night.
"It is something the children very much look forward to," Mother Paul Marie of St. Charles said. "Its one of the highlights of our year."
Three days and 44 miles later, the walkers posed outside the brick archway to campus for a group photo with alumnus Fr. Seamus Greisbach, who inspired the walk with his own treck to campus 11 years ago. With the urging of friends and attention from the national media, he organized the Road for Hope in 1999, with the idea of fundraising for charities along the route.
The Road for Hope is a unique way to return to campus, many of the students agreed. While walking, veterans motivated themselves and the first timers with images of the return to campus — an escort from Goffstown Police up Saint Anselm Drive, banners and hugs outside the Dana Center, and a warm shower in their residence hall room. After Road for Hope, walking will never seem the same.
Photos by Greg Wallace '10
To see more Road for Hope photos check out the college's Flickr page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/saintanselm/sets/72157622133189774/
Read about the Road for Hope departure from campus.