Sunday, September 21, 2014

Walks and Loves

Another September Sunday, another incredible outing with the Cook Clan and their extended family and friends taking part in the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk.
For nearly a decade, we've been walking the miles, in honor of Jackie's sister, Annie, who's beaten back leukemia twice since 2003.  She wasn't able to join us on the course this year, but made sure to check in via telephone frequently to monitor our progress.
This year, though, the walk took on a different look, as Walk Star Jackie took this year off, recovering as she is from thyroid surgery last week.  I was more than honored - in fact I can honestly say it was truly one of the highest honors of my life - to step in and happily take her place, in her honor and to represent out along the course, alongside Wonder Walker Heather.
So this year, I shed the Annie's Army shirt in honor of Jack, and went with a teal shirt, which is one of the colors to recognize the fight against thyroid cancer.
A couple of miles in, and Heather and I stopped at the first watering hole in Wellesley, where we saw the stunning work of the Sandwich Squad.  Hundreds upon hundreds of sandwiches stacked up for the army of walkers.
You'll see a few more of these pics, with banners representing not only the brave souls who fight back the ills of cancer, but the folks like my beautiful daughter who log the miles and raise money to fight the disease by supporting the Jimmy Fund.
Turning onto Commonwealth Avenue by the fire station, we were greeted by the cheer squad at Survivor's Island
Where naturally, Heather had to dance the limbo 
At each mile marker there's a sandwich board highlighting the inspirational stories of cancer survivors.  Heather makes sure to give each of them a congratulatory tap 
Resilience, indeed, especially for holding up so well halfway through the infamous hills in Newton 
A walking legend, along with a running legend, the King of the Boston Marathon, Johnny Kelly.  (You didn't think I was talking about me, did you?) 
Heather is all smiles.  Why?  She just made it to the top of Heartbreak Hill 
Heather is out there giving hope to cancer fighters everywhere 
Heading into the home stretch with temps hitting 81 degrees, the father-daughter team pose before the infamous Citgo sign in Kenmore Square
Huge high-fives for the army of volunteers who make the walk a pleasure

And then suddenly, as we entered Kenmore Square, we saw the orange shirts.  The rest of Annie's Army - the other half of our Cook foursome, as well as Jackie's cousin Cheryl Cook and LPD co-worker Feby Colon - was ready to join the forced march!
Andrew, as you can see, likes to make his point when photo-bombing
Headed for home, the best of buds
As regular readers of this blog know, the finish line of the Boston Marathon holds a special meaning for us.  Whether it be where we wrap up the 26.2 mile run in April or the 13.1 mile trek every September, it's always a welcome sight.
My favorite people in the world
If you've read any of the previous years blogs about this walk, you know the walk-day fashion is all about the socks, and this year was no different.  Sock Stars. 
And because I know so many of you have been concerned for his well-being, and rightfully so, I took a couple of shots just to show that yes, Andrew was indeed fed.  He's not wasting away. 
And finally, the person behind every step I took today - my brave and beautiful wife.  I'd walk across the country for her, and back again if need be.  As if I ever needed reassurance that we're doing good work by pounding the pavement for these conquer cancer benefit walks, I've got one now more than ever.  She'll be back on the trail next year, but until then, I'm just proud as all hell to be able to walk by her side. 
Thanks to everyone who donated already to Heather and Jackie's fund-raising efforts.  You can still make donations to help cure this insidious disease by clicking here: Jimmy Fund Walk and entering either Jackie or Heather's names.  Thanks all!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Students of Running

This morning, my colleague Rebecca Newell from Middlesex Community College gathered a group of about two dozen students together for the first of her Friday Fitness classes, hoping to engage the students in some smart choices about health and wellness.
For her first outing, she opted for a 1.2 mile run, and drafted the services of ye blogger, along with my friends from the Lowell Police Academy PT team to coach the students through their first run.
It was a lot of fun, and hopefully was very rewarding for the students.  Here's hoping they stick with it!  If you see them running the streets of Lowell on Friday mornings, give them a beep or shout out some words of encouragement.
In the meantime, I'm going to turn the blogging airtime over to Rebecca so she can let everyone know in her own words what she's up to and why health and wellness is a good thing!  Here she is leading the charge and commandeering this blog!

It was a wonderful, crisp Fall day for our first class outing!  About two dozen Middlesex Community College students showed up for class in their favorite sneakers to participate in a non-traditional lesson plan on physical wellness.  IDS108 - General Education Seminar:  Wellness meets weekly to discuss the 8 areas of the wellness wheel and rather than sit through a Powerpoint presentation about the benefits of getting active, they put feet to the pavement and it was experiential learning at its best!
These students didn't know what they were in for when they enrolled in a course about their personal health as a college student with me, Professor Rebecca Newell!  Anyone who thought they were going to sit through 15 weeks of lecture learned quickly that wasn't the case.  Many were apprehensive when reviewing the syllabus and it informed them to meet outside with comfortable clothes, but they were motivated by the promise of fresh air, 2 participation points, a Center for Health & Wellness goody bag, and probably most enticing - personal inspiration from MCC fitness enthusiasts.
"Coach" Patrick Cook led the charge with his team of experts -  Lowell Police Officer and MCC Campus Safety Officer Thomas Hickey, Boston Marathoner Donna Corbin, Administrative Assistant in the President's Office, Jonathan Crockett, MCC's Coordinator of Athletics, Health & Wellness, and Lowell Police Officer Erin Byrne, a Staff Instructor at the Lowell Police Academy.
With some words of wisdom and a brief explanation of the course, the students were off on a 1.2 mile walk/jog/run around the historic Merrimack River, over the Bridge Street bridge and up to the Hunts Falls rotary.  The students represented multiple levels of fitness and experience, but all gave 100% and felt invigorated by the activity.
Immediately following the course, students were provided with personal advice from each of the experts.  They soaked up the information and many expressed interest in continuing.  To wrap up the session, students participated in 15 minutes of aerobic conditioning with a few onlookers jumping in. With a few jumping jacks and squats to top off the fun run they were ready to tackle the day.  Seems there might be a correlation between movement and student success!  Stay healthy and well, everyone!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Whole New Reason to Walk

Anyone who's followed this blog over the years, or has had any type of conversations with any member of the Cook clan knows that every September, without exception, we proudly and happily take part in the annual Jimmy Fund Cancer Walk - specifically, the half-marathon leg from Wellesley into downtown Boston.
I blog about it every September, and throughout this post, you'll see finish line pics from at least the past five walks.  With honor, we do it specifically for Jackie's sister, Annie, who was diagnosed with leukemia more than a decade ago.  After a successful stem cell transplant last year, Annie's kicking butt and taking names again.
So all along, Jackie and Heather have been planning, as they do every September, to walk for Annie and celebrate her life and courage.

This year, there's been a new wrinkle added to the walk.
In August, Jackie, the love of me life, had part of her thyroid removed.  A few weeks later, her doctor told her the removed piece had some cancer cells in it.  So on Wednesday of this week, she had the other half removed.  She's doing remarkably well, and not surprisingly, has undergone the entire procedure with her trademark smile.

Below is a letter that's going out to Jack's friends and family, posted in its entirety.  At the end, there's a pair of links that you can click on to donate to either Jackie or Heather's fund-raising efforts to kick cancer's ass.  Regardless of who actually gets to log the miles this week, we'll all be out there in one form or another, and we appreciate your support.

For me, personally, it's never been more important.  

Dear friends; 

Sunday, September 21 is the annual Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk, a fund-raiser that Jackie and Heather take part in every year, trekking the 13.1 miles from Wellesley to the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Boylston Street in Boston.  For nearly 10 years, Jackie has been taking part in the walk in honor of her sister Annie, who has successfully been battling and conquering leukemia.  Last year, specifically, Jack and Heather walked because Annie couldn’t, recovering as she was from a stem cell transplant that saved her life.  For the better part of this year, plans have been in progress for the mother-daughter team to make yet another return to the route, winding as it does up Heartbreak Hill, complete with Heather’s outrageous walking socks.

This year, though, fate threw a new wrench into the plans, which is where I come in.

This summer, Jackie herself got some medical news that some of the readings were off on her thyroid production.  She went for a biopsy, and in August, had half of her thyroid removed, a procedure that she bounced back from remarkably.  A biopsy of the removed thyroid, however, revealed some cancer cells, which thankfully had not spread.  But as a result of that, her doctor recommended taking the other half of her thyroid out, a procedure she underwent on Wednesday, September 10, and which she once again bounced back from with the same flying colors.

But because of the invasive procedure and the toll it can take on a person, Jackie probably won’t be able to log the 13.1 miles herself this year, despite her insistence to still carry on in her sister’s name.  As a result, though, I’ve agreed to step in and try to carry the torch not just for Annie now, but also in honor of the most incredible, wonderful and greatest partner a mook like me could ever ask for – my beautiful wife.  I will be logging her 13.1 miles this year, trying my best to keep up with Heather’s pace and socks, and trying – and failing – to be as upbeat, free-spirited and downright GOOD as my wife is.

As of this writing, Jackie is still planning to try to walk as much of the route as she possibly can, if not all of it.  She’s certainly been training on schedule, but we also want to see how she bounces back from her second surgery, so just in case, we’ve got Plan B in place.  No matter what, she’ll be out there that Sunday to walk at least SOME part of the course, truly, as much as she can handle.  Knowing her, it’ll be a healthy amount.

Jackie truly hates making this fund-raising ask every year, but we know the monies raised as a result of her walking go toward a fabulous cause – obliterating this insidious disease which has affected so many people we know and love.  So this year, it’s me putting the touch on everyone, asking you to support Jack’s walk even if she can’t do it herself, and to do it not just in support of everyone who benefits from the Jimmy Fund, but very specifically, Annie, and my beautiful Jack.

Your support is much appreciated, and carries a special message this year, more than ever.

This is the Jimmy Fund Walk home page:

Go to the support a walker link on the left and type in either Jackie Cook or Heather Cook to support either my wife or daughter.

Here’s the link that takes you directly there:

Thanks again to everyone.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Dogging It

The Lowell Police Academy took to the historic streets of Concord, Mass. Sunday to pound the pavement in the name of a good cause - specifically, for Concord K9 Mikayel, seen here with his handler, Concord Police Officer Sylvia Toumayan.  At far left is Lowell Police Officer Erin Byrne, who pulled the LPA runners together for the event, known as the Concord 5K9.
About half of this year's class took part in the fund-raiser along with a good chunk of the LPA PT staff.  Lots of you are probably used to seeing them running the streets of Lowell most mornings from June through October.   Most of the this year's class ran the 3.1 mile Concord loop, carrying their LPA standard all along the way.  They're joined here by Lowell Police Sgt. Mark Leblanc, the Academy Director.
In case you haven't run them, the Concord streets around the downtown, along Monument Road and the Minuteman National Park are a true gem.  Why the E Streeters aren't down there running the trail off-shoots more often is a mystery to me.  Sounds like I need to chart a course there sometime soon.
Four Horsemen heading in to the home stretch
After the race, fellow PT instructor Tim Bousios and his personal trainer were proud to take part
As was the rest of the class, joined by Lowell Police Sgt. Marisol Nobrega
And it didn't hurt that members of the LPA team took home some hardware for their age group division finishes, including E Streeter Carlos Borges of the Tyngsboro PD
Props to Cambridge PD's Kyle Galuski and Melissa Miceli for their medal places!
Lots of credit to the students from Concord-Carlisle High School who helped organize the whole shindig.  It was especially heartening to see so many dogs running in the race, considering what the cause was all about.  Proceeds are being used to purchase a ballistic vest and provide for the care of the newest member of the Concord PD, Mikayel.  The 5K9 was dedicated to K9 Charik, who had participated in the marathon bomber manhunt in Watertown, and ended his tour in April and was well known to the children of Concord and Carlisle.
A really great time had by all, and an important cause bolstered by everyone running until they were dog tired.