American Spirit

Committed to volunteer help on Friday night, I was dragging the idea to get up early on Saturday morning and drive on the freeway for 1-1/2 hours for the event – MS Walk fundraiser.  However, when the day came closer, my heart was leaping and I felt it difficult to resist my urge to participate.  I seemed to hear a voice saying, “follow your heart”. So I signed up and went for it.
The event location is at Riverfront Park in Salem. Participants will be walking along the river path and the streets nearby. I thought I will be shooting while they are walking, possibly in the rain, too.  It does not seem very exciting from the photography point of view. But my goal is to record the event, not to have fun, I am cool with that.
The morning was cloudy and cold. Volunteers just had a registration booth set up. Some merchants were displaying their products. I was a bit surprised to see a full crew of a high school music band there, too. People started to show up for registration. There was one line, two lines, and multiple lines and the lines got longer. This is a much bigger event than I anticipated.
Cheering for toddler ‘walkers’
I walked around the place and gradually sneaked into the crowd, mingling. Most of the walkers wear MS Walk orange T-shirts and some have their own group ‘uniform’. Almost all the T-shirts have wordings on them, either it is ‘I walk for someone’, ‘Cure for their loved ones’ or words of encouragement.

Some teams include the whole family, some husband, and wife, some friends, and family, young and old, big and small. Many teams also have their sick ones in wheelchairs. They look weak yet strong. I spotted smiles on their faces.
‘Kure for Kari’ team
More than anything, I felt encouraged and inspired by the display of their spirit and purpose. They came here for a cause, not just for their loved ones, but for the awareness of MS disease to the public as well. Never ever that I felt so energized and not bashful to approach people for ice-breaking conversation and ask to take their pictures. Left shown is the largest team that I photographed.

The crowd is getting larger. The atmosphere is cozy and warm. The coldness was pushed away and replaced with courage, determination, and hope. People are wired to walk for a cause.
The walk is scheduled to launch at 10:00am. People began to gather at the start line around 9:45.  There are all age groups of people, the sick in wheelchairs, and the little ones in strollers. At 10:00am sharp, the crowd broke through the balloon gate and the Walk began. I was a bit emotional to watch the large crowd coming through…
Breaking ballon gate
It is in America where people are zealous to participate in meaningful events like this one. Volunteer helpers are always so available to help out in non-profit social events. There are also volunteer neighborhood patrols and volunteers to direct traffic and chaperon school kids walking across the streets in school zones. Americans know how to have fun and exercise humor at its best. They know how to make work like play. I certainly don’t feel that I am here to do a job because I had a great time and I met so many inspiring souls.
‘Not going down without a fight’
‘Walking for my Dad and Aunt’
‘Walk MS 2014, Mandy’s Marchers
Kram’s Krew
‘Every step takes us closer to a cure for MS’

Americans are not only courageous themselves and also encouragers to others. You can count on immediate help and support when you need it. One schoolboy fell on the bike, fire truck and ambulance will show up within 5-10 minutes. When the ambulance siren sounded, all cars in the street immediately stopped and let the way.

There is overflowing freedom if you want to take the advantage of it (not abuse it). You can write your team’s name on your face;  You can play trombone on the grass. Nobody will give you a strange look. It took me years to comprehend and appreciate this free spirit, the resource of free-thinking, and America’s creative and innovative culture.
Surely Glad that I am here and feel proud to be an American.

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