The Story of the 'Little Girl on Belmont Hill' -
Introduction: For 2011, as you may know, I was privileged and fortunate to walk in all fourteen 3-day, 60 mile events. Although I had previously had my life changed due to prior walks and all they entailed, my life had never been shaken to its roots, to be fundamentally changed in many aspects as it was by the 2011 walks.
All of this was due to a "little girl on Belmont hill" near Boston on the second day of the first walk. To understand the full impact of this girl and what led to this happening, please listen to my speech that I was privileged to give in San Diego at the camp show for my 14th walk in 2011, the last of the season. 2011 San Diego 3-day Speech
Since the 2011 walks were completed in San Diego, the impact Zoie has made on the lives of so many has continued, especially mine. I continued to communicate with Kristina, the survivor I met in San Francisco who helps take care of Zoie, and she began to tell me of the many needs of Zoie and her sisters. The list was quite long.With Christmas just around the corner, I again reached out to the 3-day community and they responded in a way I could not have imagined. Within days, gifts were being sent to Zoie and her sisters to help provide many of life's daily basics that we take for granted. Along with these gifts, the girls were also given many fun gifts including gift cards to the movies and like activities. And this was just the beginning.
Shortly before Christmas, the girls found out the failed furnace in their house had failed beyond repair and the estimated replacement cost was $4500. Not having this money, the girls did not know what they could or would do. A local 3-day walker with a heart of gold stepped forward and got the word out to the local businesses and the response was overwhelming. Within days, not only was a brand new furnace installed, at no charge to the family, but people from his company also donated money and gifts to the girls. Never doubt the 3-day community in what it can do!
In December 2011, for the first time since I saw Zoie on Belmont hill, I had the opportunity to not only talk with her from my California home, but to have a video chat with her. It was an experience I will never forget as I talked well past an hour with a girl who had not only touched my heart with her story, but the hearts of countless others. Her contagious smile warmed my heart. Since then we have had several other video chats and plan to have more, where I can help with her reading and hopefully other subjects.
I am so thankful for having met Zoie, to be a part of the 3-day community and to now fully understand the strength and passion of the community and how it will not quit until a cure for breast cancer is found. We will continue to walk, to continue to fight against this disease, until the cure has been found. We will celebrate the day that we no longer have little girls on Belmont hill who have lost their mother.
2012 Follow-On to the Zoie Story
Many continue to ask about my special friend in Boston, Zoie, the ten year who stole my heart with her poignant sign that she held last year. To my joy, Zoie and her sister were chosen for the Boston 3-day Youth Corp this year. This made them a part of the 3-day crew! Having walked in Boston last weekend, I was able to spend a good deal of time with her, before the walk by arriving early, during the 3-day on route and in camp and also on Monday prior to my flying home. To see her smile, to give her hugs and to simply get to know her better were moments I will never forget.
With this said, I would like to share a moment that Zoie and I had together while in camp, a moment that so summarizes why the 3-day events, why the time spent training, fundraising and walking is such a passion in my life and why I plan to walk until the cure is found. I know what follows is rather long, but I also know it will be worth your time to read. Tissues are optional:
This past weekend was filled with many emotions for me as I walked in the Boston 3-day event. There was the event itself, with the added bonus of it being the first 2012 SGK walk and my carrying the Futures banner in the Opening Ceremony.
However, the one emotion I was not prepared for was how my first moments with Zoie would be when I saw her on Wednesday evening when I arrived at her home and how it would be to see her with the Youth Corp during the 3-day event. As I flew east, my thoughts continued to go back to when I saw her on Belmont Hill, filled with grief and how the 3-day community swept her up in their collective arms to support she and her sisters.
My first chance to see her was at her home on Wednesday evening, prior to going to Chili’s with her sisters and Paul. Her smile and her hug was huge as my thoughts again returned to the top of Belmont Hill. Throughout the remainder of the evening and throughout Thursday as we enjoyed time with each other at the restaurant, traveled to Framingham and then enjoyed the crew day and rehearsal, my heart continued to be warmed by her energy and smile.
Throughout Friday, I had many opportunities to see Zoie and her sister, Erin, as they went about their YC tasks. I was thrilled again as I watched them opening up and expressing themselves more and more with the 3-day walkers and crew. To see how being with the 3-day community was enriching their lives and providing a respite from their daily challenges, again showed the strength and power of the 3-day community and how it changes lives.
On Friday evening, I had my first quiet time with Zoie as I was charging my batteries in the dining tent, a moment I will always treasure. Having left the YC for a few moments, Zoie approached me, sat in my lap and looked at me and stated, “Jim, I went to the Remembrance Tent by myself. What is it all about?” Thoughts went through my mind on how to explain this to her, which I did. As I described what the tent was about, I could see her processing what I said and trying to put order to the words as it related to her mom’s death. She stepped away, then stepped back, gave me a hug and asked, “Jim, would you stop by my tent tonight and say good-night.” My heart was touched as I felt a real connection was developing.
As I traveled to my tent after the Camp Show, I met a crew member who asked me to read something special that she had found in the Remembrance Tent, a note from Zoie to her mom that she had photographed. Reading the note, the tears were finally surfacing as I was losing my edge to the emotions that I had been experiencing since my arrival.
Going to the Remembrance Tent, I spent time reading the note she
had written, trying to imagine what was going through her young mind, trying to
understand what she must be feeling about her mother’s death several years ago.
I realized this was not necessary as the words spoke for themselves.
It simply stated, “I miss you so much. I wish you could be here mom but you can’t but I will fight through. I miss you and love you so much. I miss your hugs and kisses. Mom, Lori Burgess. Love Zoie.”
As you can see, Zoie is a very special young lady who continues to touch the heart of many, It is for Zoie, for so many others affected by breast cancer that we continue to walk for a cure!
A Follow-On to Zoie's Note to Her Mother
Have you ever had one of those, "Wow" moments about something you have become very close to? A moment when something finally clicks? That happened to me a few minutes ago, when I was generating my 2013 SGK 3-day web page.
I wanted to tell the story of Zoie and a very special evening for the two of us when we had a few minutes together on Friday night during the 2012 Boston 3-Day. I told this story in a previous posting where she came to me and asked about the Remembrance Tent and told me she had visited it by herself. I later found out about a very special message she had written her mom who she lost to this deadly disease. It simply stated, “I miss you so much. I wish you could be here mom but you can’t but I will fight through. I miss you and love you so much. I miss your hugs and kisses. Mom, Lori Burgess. Love Zoie.”
As I typed her note on my page, I had that "Wow" moment as I recalled a posting on my FB wall by a good friend in Seattle, Heather Milt, who was walking this weekend's 3-day event. Heather had posted her photo of Zoie's note and how it had affected her. I then realized her photo differed from my Boston photo. I compared it with the one I took on the San Francisco walk from last weekend and it matched hers.
What had changed? From when I had visited the tent in Boston on the Friday night and before the Boston camp was closed, Zoie had returned and added the simple phrase, "I learned how to do cursive", along with a ribbon swoosh that many of us use.
This may not sound like much, but having spoken with Zoie during several video chats this past winter and spring, I knew how important this was to her...to learn cursive. In fact, she had thrilled me by sending a cursive letter to me to show me how much her skill had improved. A letter I will always cherish! ♥
As I thought about this more, I realized the tremendous love that Zoie has for her mother. How she had written a note from her heart that told all who read it how much she loved her mom and how much she missed her. It also showed me how much her thoughts continued to go back to that tent, to the extent that as she thought about her new skill, it was something too important not to include in her note...so she returned and added it. ♥
A Grave Marker for Lori, Zoie's and the Girl's Mom
While in Boston for the 2012 walk, I spent the Monday after the walk with Zoie and her sisters taking the opportunity to visit with them one more time before returning to California. The majority of the time was going to the cemetery so they could show me where their mother was buried. The sad part of this visit was finding there was no grave marker as the girls could not afford one.
In October, during Breast Cancer Awareness month, I placed an appeal to the 3-day community for funds to purchase the marker. Needing roughly $2000 for producing the marker and installation, the community responded with nearly $2500 in four days! The breast cancer community never ceases to amaze me with their love and support for each other.
Although it would take ten weeks to produce, we would also have to wait for the ground to defrost from the winter cold. In late March, I received the wonderful news that when the girls visited the cemetery, they were surprised to see a grave marker installed for their mom. That afternoon, I received a joyous phone call from Zoie that touched my heart when she told me about their cemetery visit, thanking me for the marker, then say, "I love you!" To say the least, my day was made as Zoie once again touched my heart!
Why Do We Walk?
Why do we all walk? It's not difficult to understand why. We all continue to walk, so that we can find the cure. We walk, so that little girl's hearts will not be heavy from the loss of their mom. We walk so that one day we will claim victory over this disease. My heartfelt thanks to all who continue to make a difference in the fight against breast cancer.
As time continues to move forward, I hope that I will be able to report even more on Zoie. She is a remarkable young lady with a strong heart and will who continues to deal with her mom's death from breast cancer. However, with the help of many from the 3-day community the smiles on her face continue to grow! With many thanks to all for all the help you have provided.