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Guest Blog: Rucksgiving II

Amy recently stepped up, and started helping us organize our NES social trips. The biggest hits of those have been our Ruckgiving hikes around Boston. In this guest spot, Amy writes about Rucksgiving II – held in the middle of January.

Rucksgiving II

There aren’t many things that can bring us the deep, wholesome, hopeful, world-lovin’ kind of happiness that helping others brings.

Around Thanksgiving time, a big group of New England Spahtens gathered together in the heart of Boston, strapped down with rucks, wagons, strollers, and gym bags full of blankets, hats, scarves, hand warmers, socks, toiletries, food, clothing, and more. The first event was so wonderful, we decided to plan a second!

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In January, we got a group together with even more donations, this time collected not only from home, but also from workplaces, classrooms, and friends. We met up at Boston Common and rucked over to Pine Street Inn, where we happily overwhelmed a grateful volunteer coordinator with mountains of donations! We learned that Pine Street Inn is responsible for providing shelter and street outreach to more than 1,600 men and women each day. Many of the items we brought would go out in the Outreach Van that night, providing relief to those sleeping on the bitter cold streets. After unpacking many of our items, we moved along to Rosie’s Place, a shelter for women and children – the first of its kind in the United States. At Rosie’s, we were able to chat, interact, and give directly to the ladies, which was the most rewarding part of the day for most! Despite a couple brief hold-ups, the tremendous patience and eagerness to give shown by all our Spahtens made the event a true success.

Here are just a few of many moving and inspirational snapshots of our day:

Credit: Amy ReichenbachA woman, arms filled with new clothes, grasping at words in English, able only to find the phrase, “I’m so happy! I’m so happy!”

The heartbreaking smile of sweet chubby toddler cheeks. His resilience, waving around a homemade cookie. His joy, dumping out a brand new box of crayons in his lap.

Three teens, huddled together on the frozen city sidewalk, clutching a sign “cold & hungry”…approached by 30 smiling Spahtens handing them blankets and hot breakfast sandwiches. Such relief in her eyes so many grateful thank-yous on his lips.

Watching little Spahtkin faces light up as they hand out donations they collected themselves, giving away “things” and getting back smiles.

A young lady waltzing down the sidewalk, from one Spahten backpack to the next, picking out sweaters, chapstick, sneakers… “I feel like I’m shopping!” she beams.

Credit: Amy ReichenbachHelping a woman hold her rolling suitcase closed as she zips her entire life inside. Her profuse thank-yous pause only to ask, “What church are you from?” She never expected a racing group, and blesses me with a giant hug.
This is part of what makes us who we are as New England Spahtens. We train, we get muddy, we laugh, we compete. But we are a community, and we understand what it means to give.

So many people are forever searching for the “key” to happiness. They try to find it in job promotions, big houses, expensive jewelry, huge TVs, more belongings… What’s so often overlooked is that the true key to happiness is connecting with others. Giving something of yourself to another person, so you become a part of their story that they look back on and smile – that’s what happiness is made of. We, as New England Spahtens, understand what it means to lift others up – on the race course and off. We remind ourselves to reach out a helping hand to those in need, at every opportunity we find or create. That’s what makes me so very proud to be a member of this team.

Anyone who would like to help coordinate a Spahten community event in their area, contact Amy Reichenbach.

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Thanksgiving, and giving thanks …

rucksgiving2It started with a phone call. Adrian of OCR World Championship called me one morning to float a crazy idea by me … For the last few years, he and his buddies have ran around New York City handing out festive holiday cheer, and he wondered – would the New England Spahtens do something similar in Boston? Would this be an idea that could take off?

From such a simple phone call – an annual tradition has launched.

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What is Rucksgiving?

It’s simple – you get together, and ruck around your nearest city. Instead of bricks, you carry food. Blanket. Warm weather gear. Toiletries. You ruck around the homeless hotspots, or the shelters, and you find people who need things.

gooddeedAnd you wish them a happy holidays – because not everyone had a warm fire and turkey dinner this Thanksgiving, and it feels nice to spread some of that.

In Boston, we had over 40 people and kids participating. We spent a bit of time at the common – but the weather had driven the cities homeless population to warmer locations. We regrouped and rucked – hitting up a rehab shelter, and ultimately ending up at Rosies Place, a women’s shelter. Thank you to Amy for putting together the route, and all her work behind the scenes!

And we made a difference. We made an impact. Not on a global, world peace level – but locally, in our own community, we gave someone who needed it a new toothbrush. We gave someone a warm jacket to stay warmer this winter. We left boxes of diapers at the women’s shelter for the homeless children who needed them and we provided home made muffins and candy bars to people who may not have had a tasty treat in sometime. We listened to stories from some people, received hugs from others. We were especially touched when one of the little girls in our group gave her favorite blanket from her stroller to the shelter after hearing there was an 18mo old baby inside – proving that the biggest hearts can be found everywhere.

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We covered five miles in three hours. We were cold, but thankful. This whole experience touched us all differently, but I like to think that when we all came home, we were even more grateful for our warm beds and our loving families.

We finished our ruck by splitting up – either heading home, or to Jillians, the venue for our first annual holiday social.

We picked Jillians for a reason – a centrally located, well known bar and pool hall in Boston – they were used to large groups and corporate style functions, and gave us a section of their floor and a bunch of pool tables. They also gave us awesome food, and I thank each and every person who picked up tickets to help us cover the costs for such a party! A wonderful night of giving thanks for our friends, meeting new friends – so many new faces came out, which was wonderful, and I hope I got to meet you all – we’ll be doing it again 🙂

Thank you to Unleashed, Battlefrog, FIT and Reebok for providing prizes for our raffle!

We had a wonderful day – and it was a fantastic way to spend time with our OCR community and family – from old friends having fun, to meeting new friends. I hope everyone had a good time, whichever activity you participated in, and I thank you – because without this community and the people in it, none of this could have happened.

If you missed this event – you don’t have to wait for the next one. This holidays make a difference to one person you don’t know. Find a soup kitchen and volunteer, or a homeless shelter and hand out blankets – don’t wait.

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