Monday, May 21, 2012

Walk Day!

I got all excited because during the walk I took a poop-load of pictures and tagged them geographically.  In my head I was thinking, "I can get a map and just plunk the pictures in and make it all interractive and gadgety, and by the time i was done exporting map routes to Google Earth and then Google Maps, and then Panoramia and uploading pictures and on and on, I finally decided that IF a blog post about this walk was to be written. . . perhaps I'd best dumb it down because it was taking forever and I still wasn't happy with what I had.

So. . .

I wasn't really worried that Lily wouldn't like the tshirt, but even if I HAD been worried, I needn't have.  She jabbered about how she liked her blue shirt and seemed genuinely fascinated by her picture on it.  It was pretty cute.  I really wasn't sure if the cartoon would be too abstract for her to link to herself.  I was worried that I hadn't sketched it well enough regardless.  I mean, it was really a two pronged problem.  1)  Did I do a decent enough job to even make the sketch recognizable to someone who didn't know who it was supposed to be, and 2)  Would Lily be able to put it together.

Emma and I left early to get the registrations stuff done so Leslie and Lily and my parents could just show up and walk, but Leslie sent these pictures.  Lily's l's are w's, so really she was saying, "It's wiwee!  It's me!" but who writes that way?  Regardless, it was VERY cute.  Leslie said she was very excited to walk (see exhibit B).

Couldn't have asked for a better day.  It was crystal clear.  No clouds, mid 70's all day (when it wasn't mid 80's).  We got there about 7:40 and introduced ourselves to ABOARD (Autism Connection of PA).  They were really helpful getting us tshirts and water bottles (or. . . water skins.  They were like foil versions of a wine skin, kinda cool) and giving us tickets to fill out to enter for drawings to win stuff in the overall Highmark Drawing.  They'd forewarned me to bring address labels, and I printed some out, but not enough. We got 1 entry for every $50 raised. . . and $2500 raised. . . so there were 50 tickets for the big drawings, but I'd only printed out 30 labels.

While I filled out the rest of the labels, Emma stood guard and held the completed ones so the "wind" (it wasn completely still, but she needed a job or she was going to drive me batshit crazy pacing around me) wouldn't blow them away.  A band started warming up behind us at Stage AE.

Emma said, "Is that such a good idea?"

"What, Em?"

"A band?  Don't some autistic people have problems with really loud noises?"

"Yeah," I told her, "But this isn't just a walk to benefit autism charities, there are all sorts of charities here."

"Okay. . ." she said, unconvinced, eying the stage suspiciously.  I liked that she's thought about that.  

A clown wandered over to the table where I was filling in addresses and Emma reoriented herself so that I was between her and the clown.  It was funny.  The clown made small talk. . . sorta. . . it was schtick.  She had blue hair, and I'm not going to lie. . . she was creepy. . . but she was funny, as clowns go.  

She started setting up for balloon animals while I continued to fill out information.  As I listened to her banter with people queuing for animals I muttered, "She's pretty funny, right Em?"

Emma, still behind me, said, "I guess. . . for a clown.  I don't really get 'clown humor'.  I get your humor."  I laughed and we finished the last couple tickets and looked for a place to turn them in.  I asked Emma if she wanted her picture taken with the clown but she said no. 

People started showing up for the race and after I'd turned in our tickets Emma made herself busy with her friends.  I stowed the rest of our stuff at the Aboard tent and meandered around, making small talk with people and cluelessly attempting to seem organized.  Lily and Leslie and my parents arrived and I had an excuse to seem disorganized as I'd take turns watching Lily in the crowd.  It DID freak her out a little.  BUT. . . her biggest issue was being wrangled into position (for pictures, or when we tried to keep her from walking off and exploring), not from the noise or crowd.  

The Pirate Pierogies were there and Lily loves her characters.  I got a picture of her with. . . Cheese Chester.  If you're not from Pittsburgh this will make ZERO sense to you, and it's too long to explain in what's probably already going to be a pretty long post, so link >>HERE<< to see what the hell a Pirate Pierogie is.  The event was FILTHY with pierogies.  And Steely McBeam (Pittsburgh's shameful secret Steeler mascot that nobody outside Pittsburgh knows about and nobody inside Pittsburgh acknowledges) was there too.

Tell me that pierogie isn't creepy.  You can't, can you?  No.  But not as creepy as a clown, so I guess, whatever.  So Lily kept trying to latch on to whichever costumed polish food product was closest and we got a couple pictures.  I took one of Emma and her friends with Steely, but it must be on the camera and not my phone.  He's probably even creepier than the pierogies are.

And then things got weird. . . Lily started a doomed and heart-breakingly brief romance with the cartoon image of herself on Emma's shirt:
"Hey baby.  How YOU doin'"

"I kissing her"
This was 'happy time'.  Because sometime AFTER this is when I kept forcing Lily to stay near the Aboard table rather than meandering into the crowd of 10,000 (!) saying, "I want balloon" since the place was riddled with balloons.  And she got pissed and had a mini melt down and tossed her kicky spectacles on the ground and my dad, who was walking behind me, almost smashed them underfoot, but saved them.

We started collecting at the starting line around ten to 9.  The walk was supposed to start at 9, but it was a little late.  Leslie and my parents took Lily aside after a painful picture attempt and they lined up behind us because there was a 5K walk (for serious charity walkers) and a 3K "Fun" walk.  Because those people aren't serious about walking.  It's all for fun.  We. . . everyone but my dad, my wife and Lily, were walking 5K.  For the children.  

The turnout:  Within the 10,000 walkers our subset consisted of about 42 walkers.  It was magnificent.  Everywhere you looked was a little cartoon of Lily on a shirt.  So many of Emma's friends from school made it.  Emma's dance teacher had to call off dance for Saturday because six of her dancers were at the walk.  Friends from primary school and softball and dance were there to support Emma supporting Lily.  It was beautiful.

We were starting at the bottom blue dot, and we were finishing at the top blue dot.  They mumbled some instructions into a megaphone before the start of the walk, but I wasn't paying attention, and it's not like there was any danger of losing my way in a crowd of 10,000 people all going the same route (although I suppose if they'd all have toppled off the Rachel Carson Bridge I'd have just pointed to Emma and the rest of our team and said, "It's THIS way, I think" and we'd all have died.)

The starting line was crowded with people.  Our group was probably a thousand people back or more.  We heard the sharp report of the starter's gun and as a cheer went up from the crowd, I ditched the balloon that Lily had wanted to have but didn't want to hold in celebration and we slowly plodded forward as the mob began the slow surge into motion and the space around us started to dilate.  After a minute or so we were actually walking, and I used my phone's dusty "Mapmyrun" feature to record our progress.  We were moving at about a thigh-cramping .7 miles per hour at least for a few minutes before we were able to stretch our legs and walk reasonably.

About three minutes into the walk a TV camera materialized and Emma was on it like blue bonnet.  If she made the news we never found out because we couldn't tell what station carried it (the camera wasn't marked and our preferred local news didn't show her) and moments later then he was behind us and our feet were carrying us toward PNC Park (where the Pirates play).

We walked past Honus Wagner's statue and I snapped a picture.  Actually, I snapped three.  The sun was shining so bright in my eyes that I couldn't see ANYthing on the iphone to tell if I was getting a picture of the statue or not.  All three pictures ended up sucking to various degrees, but this was the best of them:

You can see the rays of light beaming into my eyeballs here. . . 
and. . . this was the worst of them:

Arrrgh, my eyes!!!  Pathetic.

The kids were doing great.  In fact, they did really well until about a half mile from the finish line.  Even then they didn't completely wilt and stayed relatively upbeat.

Emma's in the front on the far right with her sweatshirt tied around her waist.
Meanwhile, behind us, Lily and my dad and Leslie had started their walk 15 minutes later.  Leslie told me Lily was doing great and that she'd actually gone to the bathroom in one of the (urk) port-a-johns before the start.  That was great news for us, and her in particular.  She sent me a starting picture:

Note glasses dangling from Papa's collar.  Still. . . she's chipper.  
Ahead, we walked through night and day past the Andy Warhol museum, and in and out of weeks through tunnels and almost over a year over bridges to where downtown Pittsburgh was.

"Tee dum, tee dee
A teedle ee do tee day
We're out for fun
And this is the game we play:"


You didn't realize when you signed up to be a virtual walker that you were actually going to have to live this walk picture by picture, did you?  Or perhaps that was your secret hope.  One of our friends who couldn't make it, sent text messages to Leslie showing her kids wearing signs supporting the walk while they walked somewhere else.

Only a few more to go.  We walked into the city along Fort Duquesne Boulevard past this mural:

And Emma spotted her summer CLO (Civic Light Opera Academy . . . for theater and music-y stuff) in this spooky alley.  The CLO offices are significantly less spooky than this alley, I assure you:

You can almost see the sign. . . it's approximately "beyond the point of no return" feet down the alley.
We made a wide turn and made to head back on 10th Street.  I texted my wife that we just passed CLO Academy and she replied, "we're done."  So that was good.  But we still hadn't made it to the second mile.

Emma yelled frantically that she needed her iTouch to take a picture of PNC Park and I fumbled for it before finally extricating it from my pocket where I was keeping it safe.  She had the disappointed look of someone who'd just missed a great opportunity, but I said, "Just run over here with me, stop, and take the picture.  We can catch back up." And she brightened immediately and we jogged to the fence line and took a picture across the river at the ballpark:

It was hot by that time, probably in the 80's.  The girls weren't quite as spunky, staying close to their parent or chaperone and not giggling quite as much, but really nobody was whiny or upset.

We'll cross that bridge when we. . . oh. . . now.
We crossed back over the bridge and were in the home stretch.  I texted Leslie to ask where they were.  They were at the ABOARD tent.  We marshaled our remaining resources and soldiered to the end.  Emma later lied and told me she wasn't tired at all.  

The youngest team member
People had started peeling away from the group, heading toward cars, trying to get home quickly before the rush.  I hollered my thanks to their departing backs and their shouted, "your welcome!"s.  We had a softball practice game scheduled for a few hours later, and I knew people were trying to get their kids home and cooled off before it started.
still keeping it together

made it!
And then it was over.  I found my family and met some more ABOARD people.  They'd graciously stored some of our extra shirts and water in a box behind their tent.  Before I left they did shake me down for their photographer's camera.  Apparently he'd put it in the box with our stuff for a while.  I assured them I didn't have it, but if I did I promised I would give it back.

As we left with a box full of ABOARD tshirts, we stumbled across some team members and handed some of the shirts and water 'bottles' out, lightening the box a bit for the walk back.  

Lily was still relatively happy.  We dangled a promise of McDonald's over her head and she latched onto it like a promise of salvation.  We stopped at another port-a-john before we left, the walk had taken about an hour and a half by the time we were ready to leave, and we didn't trust the 20 minute trip back to McDonald's to proceed dryly. . . but it she didn't go, and she still stayed dry until we made it home where she used a REAL bathroom.  I didn't blame her.  I'd skipped my second cup of coffee just to stay away from those things.

Emma got a brief rest before she changed into a softball uniform and got ready to play.  I carted the extra tshirts and water bottles into the house to. . . do. . . something with.  I don't know.  I have to find the people that didn't get shirts and get them shirts.  

We raised about $2,500 for ABOARD.  When we started I thought we'd be lucky to get $500.  They thanked us for how 'organized' we were as a team.  I told him we didn't really have a choice.  When it started we thought maybe we'd have 10 or 15 walkers.  We walked with 42.  Organization by necessity.

Whenever I told the story about how over half of the donations came from people with whom I'd never shared a verbal conversation, amazed head shakes ensued.  And they're still "ensuing" at our house.  We're amazed at the generosity of our friends and family and. . . 'internet people".

Thank you all for contributing to an amazing and successful first walk.  I promise I'll be a little more 'together' next year if you're still around following our adventures.


  1. You guys did it, that's awesome!!! And the pirogie thing (or however you spell it) is just weird. As equally as weird as clowns although I have a morbid fear of clowns after the Steven King movie, "IT," that clown ruined all other clowns for me......

    1. Clowns are freaky regardless, but THAT clown. . . with his needle teeth. . . *shudders* "Pennywise"

  2. Wow, the shirts came out great!!! So glad Lily did well. Walks are one of Katie's least fav things. We have done an autism walk the 2 past years and it's like she goes into competition with the rest of the kids, to prove her autism. You kinda make Pittsburg sound like a place worth visiting ;)

    1. It's beautiful downtown. Soooo not what I expected when I moved here from Montana.

  3. So awesome!! So AWESOME!! You did a terrific job, as always, making us feel as though we were there.

    So glad you guys had a great time. Until next year, when it'll be bigger and more $$ raised!!

    1. Thanks! I hope so. I don't want people to burn out on it, but it was such a blast everyone who was there was all gung ho for next year!

  4. Sounds like an amazing event, and you kicked butt with the money you guys raised. Yay for you!

    Also, clowns are creepy and scary.

  5. Sounds like it was a great day! Lily and the shirts are so cute.

    1. It was great! Thank you! And Thank you!

  6. I have a lot to say. I took NOTES. Heh.

    I love that Lily loved the shirt. It's a great shirt. Of course she did.

    $2500! JIM! That is FANTASTIC! I'm so happy for you and so proud of you! Do you get to find out if you did better than all of the other teams? I mean...not that it's all for, who am I kidding, I want you to WIN.

    Also, did you win the drawing? I love those kind of things. The prizes are so amazingly random.

    Emma makes me happy. I love how intelligent she is. And I LOVE her mistrust of the clown, and that she refused to get a photo taken with the clown. I think on some level she knew I'd be reading this and that I wouldn't want to see that photo. You go, Emma. I'll be mailing you some crazy rainbow socks someday as a thank you.

    That pierogie made me spit-take with laughter. That's a thing? A mascotty thing? I LOVE IT. Please find the cheese-thing photo. I'm dying to see something MORE creepy than that pierogie thing.

    I'm so happy it went well. Thank you for the photos. This was a joy to read and I just smiled and smiled. I'm glad I got to be there, even if only via the blog.

    1. We "beat" all the teams but one! The team we didn't beat was captained by someone on ABOARD's board. . . so they weren't competing. I'd still have liked to pummel them too. . . but it's nice that of all the teams that "counted", we winned. We winned hard.

      I didn't hear anything about any wins. On the one hand we had 50 tickets. . . on the other hand, there were 10,000 people in the drawing (give or take).

      We should have some fun stuff from ABOARD, but I think they're still tallying and depositing and stuff. It's hard work depositing almost $11,000. (They beat their goal too)

      She even refused to take a picture of ME with the clown. i think she was afraid for any of her loved ones getting too close. . .

      It's. . . SORTA a mascotty thing. Pierogies are very local, very Polish, very Pittsburgh. And they race at all the Pirate's home games in the 7th inning. People cheer for their favorites. That IS Cheese Chester with her in the picture!


    2. Do you know, I have never in my life been to a baseball game? Not even once. And I actually LIKE baseball. I know what's going on, too. It's the only sport I understand, for the most part. (I kind of understand basketball, but baseball's more fun for me.) I want to go to a baseball game and watch giant pierogies run around like I'm having a weird food-themed acid trip.

      YOU WIN! I don't count that other team, they were ringers. YOU ARE THE WINNER!

      Emma totally knew that clown would eat anyone's soul that got too close. Brilliant girl, your Emma.

    3. I'll have to show you the picture I took of her when we went to my parent's house for dinner. I'll put it on facebook.

    4. Crap, I'm days late. Did that happen? Will go look now. Sorry. I'm all behind on things.

  7. "I don't get clown humor." Your kid is awesome!

    1. She really sorta skipped over clown humor in her development and went straight into wry wit.

  8. Sounds like the walk was a huge success! The pierogies are odd...of course, I've been to Miller Park where they race I can't really say much.

    I'm with Emma on the whole loud band-not-going-with-Autism-thing. Our walk had several, and it was Autism Speaks....or more like Autism Shrieks (and Autistic people cringe). But, I digress...

    Way to go on the fundraising!! Great job!

  9. Way to go, Team Lil!

    Do it again next year - I know there are some slackers who would like a second chance to participate. 8^P

    Your dad looks like a real hombre.

    p.s. Rest in Peace, Maurice S.

    1. We will, for sure. The Treasurer of ABOARD is taking his son to Utah to go hiking. I mentioned you and your son and your walkabouts.

  10. Who knew a charity walk blog post would make my eyes leak? Geez, I must be getting soft in my old age...

    There is MUCH to love about this experience. First, that I didn't have to physically go to Pittsburgh to do it! Second, well, all of it, really. But THIS is my favorite:
    "Emma's dance teacher had to call off dance for Saturday because six of her dancers were at the walk." That made me really smile.

    Oh, yeah, and the whole awesome t-shirts, cute kids, and beating your goal by a country mile! GOOOOOOO, TEAM WIWY!!

    1. Ooh! I haven't made eyes leak for a while. . . I should really apply myself.


  11. Jim,

    Thanks for raising so much dough for us! It was great to meet you.

    For those who have not met Jim, he is just as funny in person!


    1. Thanks, Steve. Did you see a few comments up, the guy named Jon? He's the Utah hiker raising his own autistic kiddo, that I told you about. He takes his son on "walkabouts". If you're not already set on where you're going, I'll bet you a ton that he has some great ideas.

      Here's a post about on such past hike/camping trip. . .

  12. Wow. The only thingbetter than all those snaps of the steel city were the pics of your girls. Glad you had suchagreat day for your walk!

  13. So awesome - almost like being there! Teared up at Emma's concern about the band/loud noises - that's my boy's kryptonite! Thanks so much for sharing - have been looking forward to this post! -Lisa (quiet reader)

    1. She was concerned about the clown too. She said, "Lily doesn't like clowns." But I'm not sure how much of that concern was her own. . .

      I got the distinct impression that Emma felt the entire walk was to directly honor and/or benefit Lily.

  14. Awesome! I followed along with your pics on Twitter. From my couch. Eating chips. It almost made me feel like I was there, watching from the sidelines eating chips.

    Don't you just love it when your kids reach that pivotal moment when they get the difference between your humor and clown humor? Sniff sniff.

    Why do Americans talk about walks and marathons in kilometres when you guys don't use metric? Me so confused.

    1. Because Americans WANT to use metric but "big business" thwarts us!!

      What kind of chips? talk slow. . .

  15. Sounds like the day went great! And I love the shirts...

  16. This is amazing! I LOVE the Wiwi shirts.
    I think I may be the only person in the world who is not creeped out by clowns... but yeah, I don't find them to be very funny, and also prefer your humour.

    And you have characters of pirate PIEROGIES?! That is the greatest thing I've ever heard. Cheese Chester looks friggin' delicious. He is definitely also looking pretty unhappy though...

    Congrats on raising that much money! You guys are superstars!

    1. Thanks!

      Yeah. . . pierogies. They run races in the 7th inning. Ridiculous. There are four of them. They're all unhappy.

  17. Sounds like a great day! I was touched that so many of Emma's friends joined. And it's so sweet that Lily loved the shirts.

    It was also great to see pics of the Burgh. I haven't been back for at least four years and I need to visit before my family completely hates me.

    Also, thanks for the pierogie craving.

    1. Yes, you need to make it back. Pittsburgh is a fun place.

  18. wonderful picures, love the pictures of lily with her picture, reminds me of someone at home :)

  19. This is great! Cograts on the money raised and for being an inspiration!

  20. CONGRATS on such a successful walk! I LOVED the virtual tour of the day's festivities. Go Lily, Go!

    1. just one week later and you and Tony could have joined the magic. :)

  21. Man, that took some time to get through that post! I feel like I took the whole walk with you in real time! ;) JK - Pittsburg is a lot prettier than I had imagined but not nearly as beautiful as the two little girls who are pictured on THIS walk! Love the picture of Lily in love with her image on Emma's shirt! Too funny! That was amazing work you did to raise funds for ABOARD! I hope they recognize what a great catch they have in your whole family! Awesome job!!

    1. They probably do recognize it. . . you know, cause I keep telling them.