Walk across America to raise awareness for transplants
A coast-to-coast trek to benefit transplant patients and their families
Ten years after his young wife died following a failed heart transplant, an adventurous newspaper editor is taking the long route back to his late wife's final resting place by walking clear across the country. He walked through Green River on Aug. 9. Mike Tittinger, 40, aims to help give transplant patients "a second chance to dream" by raising money to help recipients, and their families, rebuild their lives and pursue postponed goals after medical ordeals. Walking coast to coast seemed a fitting way to further the cause, he says.
"It's long, deliberate and difficult" but pales in comparison to what a transplant patient goes through in recovery," says Tittinger, whose route began at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco and is planned to conclude on the Atlantic shore in Ocean City, N.J.
"Walking is so basic and so human, and we take it for granted," Tittinger added. "Some people don't have that ability, or they have to work tirelessly to regain that ability."
Tittinger's nonprofit organization, The Onny and Oboe Scholarship Fund, is named in honor of his late wife Deanna's twin imaginary friends "a boy and a girl" who laughed and played with the young girl in poor health.
At age 10, Deanna was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a congenital enlargement of the heart. Doctors did not expect her to live beyond her teens. She defied expectations, however, marrying Tittinger at 27 while the two worked together at The Reporter, a daily newspaper in Lansdale, Penn. Tittinger, a graduate of Temple University, went on to take work with Metro, a daily newspaper in Philadeplhia, before Deanna's illness took over. Deanna was being treated at Temple Hospital when her name finally came up for a heart transplant. Unfortunately, the transplant was not successful.
Tittinger later moved to California and became editor of the Santa Monica Daily Press. He has since remarried and his second wife, Brooke, has been a central motivator in Tittinger's current project. It was her encouragement that ultimately led him to found The Onny and Oboe Scholarship Fund. It's been more than a decade in the making, a long and emotional process.
After launching his journey June 18, Tittinger plans to conclude at the beach where he spread Deanna's ashes in December 2000.
Above all, Tittinger maintains that his consummate goal with both the walk and the nonprofit organization is to be forward-looking and positive. He says the undertaking is a "celebration, not a memorial."
"I'm making good on a vow I made way back, 10 years ago that I would do something to help people like Deanna, to give them chances she never had," Tittinger said. "I never shared this vow with Deanna, it's just something I promised to myself."
The scholarship, which Tittinger plans to award annually, recognizes perseverance, optimism and resilience maintained against great odds. Tittinger hopes to raise at least $25,000 in tax-deductible donations (to contribute, visit www.mikeywalks.com and click on the "Donate Now" button on the left column). Scholarship awardees will be selected based on financial need, interests and demonstrated creativity. As mikeywalks.com maintains: "Exploration. Achievement. Realization. Seldom are they a straight line."
"Onny and Oboe have returned," Tittinger says. "I hear them calling, sense them nudging me forward and saying, 'Let's go.'"
Walking quotes: Walk and be happy; walk and be healthy. The best way to lengthen our days is to walk steadily and with a purpose. -- Charles Dickens.
Walking is the great adventure, the first meditation, a practice of heartiness and soul primary to humankind. Walking is the exact balance between spirit and humility. -- Gary Snyder, The Practice of the Wild.
It is solved by walking. -- A Latin proverb.
Above all, do not lose your desire to walk. Everyday, I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it. But by sitting still, and the more one sits still, the closer one comes to feeling ill. Thus if one just keeps on walking, everything will be all right. -- Soren Kierkegaard.
All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking. -Friedrich Nietzsche.
An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day. Henry David Thoreau.
Hey, I'm walkin' here -- Ratso Rizzo