By Samantha Barrett, Special Events Coordinator
This past weekend, RSDSA participated in their final Achilles Walk. We have been doing the Achilles Walk as an organization for over a decade. The event has run its course. We have decided we need to move on and change things up a bit for the CRPS/RSD community.
For me personally, this was my third Achilles Walk. I attended my first Achilles when I started interning for RSDSA. That first year was absolutely beautiful. It was my first time staying in New York and seeing Central Park. I met so many people and made so many lifelong friends. It was amazing to me that, after 8 years with CRPS/RSD, I was still learning so much from others with CRPS/RSD. I remember the feeling that surrounded me and everyone else that day- hope. Being around so many people that have an understanding about what you’re going through is life-changing. Prior to this walk, I could count on one hand how many people I knew, personally, with CRPS/RSD. Now, a vast majority of my contacts in my phone and on social media have CRPS/RSD. I still stay in contact with most of the people from that first walk today.
Last year’s walk was a little different. It was cold and damp. It was enough to give you a bone chill (and a terrible cold). We didn’t know how many people would come out in the rain. But, as usual, the CRPS/RSD community showed its strength. People still came out to make the most of a dreary day. There was still so much hope and love. I got to see the people I had met at the previous year’s walk. As I observed, I saw that it was like a reunion. People were hugging (gently), saying hello, chatting. The CRPS/RSD community is like another family. You may not see these people every day, but when you do, it is like nothing has changed. While everyone is living with their own pain, everyone still asks how each other is doing. We all have a special radar that can tell what someone’s response to the question “How are you doing?” really means. If their response is along the lines of “I’m okay,” with a forced smile, you know that they are having a rough day and you watch out for them and make sure that they don’t overdo it. Most of the time, we don’t even realize we are reading each other, we just know what responses mean when we say them. This walk still ended up being a success. We were all freezing by the end, but we had to see each other.
This year, I was nervous leading up to the walk. As many of our participants know, we had some complications along the road to Achilles that we couldn’t anything about. When we decided this would be our last walk, I wanted to make it as fun as possible. We got awards donated to us from Crown Trophy, we had snacks and water, and we encouraged people to come out and be as festive as possible. Our location got moved to a different part of the park and our walk route was changed. I wasn’t sure how many people would show up because of the frustration (and understandably so). But as always, the CRPS/RSD community is stronger than we even realize and can overcome any obstacle. Checking people in that day was wonderful. I was able to put faces with names and able to introduce myself in person instead of through the internet. We had so many people there that I was only able to leave the registration table 2 minutes before the 1.5 mile walkers were about to leave. I had to get a group picture! Sorry to all of the 4 mile walkers that were not in the picture! But there were so many people. And the energy was just as great. People were meeting for the first time, reuniting with others, giving advice to newcomers, and soaking in the day. I was able to get to talk with so many of you and make more lifelong friends. I left last in line for Team RSDSA. We were held in a staging area while we waited for the walk. I made my way to the front of the line so I could get decent pictures and help lead people where they had to go. Let me just say, WOW. There were so many people with us. I only saw RSDSA shirts when I looked behind me. It went back as far as I could see. While we were limited to 150 walkers this year, I think we had the largest team at the walk. It makes me so incredibly proud to be a part of this community, not only as an RSDSA employee, but as a person living with CRPS/RSD.
Towards the end of the day and into the work week, people were realizing that was the last Achilles. It was heartbreaking to hear and read how upset people were. But then it occurred to me that no matter where we go, our community will show up. We are strong and support one another. We will have a walk to take the place of this event, just in a different location. If we just consider whatever event takes its place as the new “go to” event, it will be just as great. No matter where we are in the country, the CRPS/RSD community shows up to support each other. While change is always something that is difficult to adapt to, this change will be great for RSDSA and the community.
To all of the friends I have made over the past 3 Achilles Walks, thank you. Each and every one of you inspire me in a new way, every day. The strength that you all show and the support you all provide is so important to keeping hope going within the community. We are the future, we can make a difference.
We wanted to thank everyone that has participated in this walk with us over the past decade. Your dedication and support has been incredible! We hope you keep all of the connections you have made and stay in touch with them. If you want to attend another walk, please keep checking our RSDSA Events page. We have events coming up in Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Maine, New York, New Jersey, California, and Tennessee. Be on the lookout! We hope to see you all at events in the future.