Friday, May 23 was a special day.
I invited everyone I know to my favorite Binghamton eatery, Food & Fire, to say farewell before I embarked on my 90-day journey around the United States the following Thursday.
I’d received the shipment of freshly printed #TeamStrub t-shirts the day before, and offered people the chance to support my trip and my friend’s charity, Pay Away the Layaway, by purchasing one.
It was a day of celebration for sure. Many of my closest friends came down to give me a hug, drink a craft beer or three and pick up their shirt. Each person who bought a shirt that day would be entitled to a “Daily Sponsorship” -- that is, one of the days of my journey would be officially sponsored by that individual. (BTW, you can still sponsor a day.)
I stayed from open to close, but it was right around 4:30 that a very special visitor stopped by.
Her name is Amy Shaw, and she works at the Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce.
Amy was in a hurry, saying she couldn’t stay for a beer (though she wanted to!), but she pulled a crisp $100 bill out of her wallet and requested a quartet of t-shirts.
I was floored -- but what she said next meant 100 times more than any menial t-shirt transaction.
She pulled out a multicolored button and a yellow wristband, and explained to me the story of her nine-year-old daughter, Maddie.
Maddie has Ewing’s Sarcoma, a super rare type of cancer that affects just 2 in 1 million kids. Her treatment would be a long and arduous process, including an hours-long procedure at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) in early June.
The button reads, "I Wear For Maddie,” and the wristband echoes a similar sentiment: “WE FIGHT FOR MADDIE.”
Amy handed me the $100 bill and made a simple request: “For a few days, if you could just mention Maddie, it would mean the world to me.”
I looked Amy in the eye, realizing how much this meant to both of us, and suddenly none of the hubbub surrounding us at the bar mattered.
“Amy,” I said, “I’m going to put this wristband on” -- I stretched the band around my wrist -- “and not take it off until my trip is over.”
As a man of my word, the band sits on my wrist as I type this out. If you’ve seen any of the photos from my journey, you’ve probably noticed the bright yellow band on my left arm.
Even the “official” #TeamStrub photographs, taken by the sensationally talented Joshua B of BingSpot, feature the green-on-yellow-embossed rubber. As I posed on the deck at Thai Time (in Binghamton) for the pictures, Josh asked, “Do you want to take that band off? It really draws a lot of attention …”
“Nope,” I insisted. “I’m glad it does.”
(If you’re curious, the button adorns my backpack of life essentials: suntan lotion, toothpaste, clean boxer shorts and the like.)
Today is Day 19 of my 90-day journey around the United States -- the first of four consecutive days officially sponsored by the kindness and generosity of Amy Shaw.
Could I have rearranged the sponsorships to have Team Maddie sponsor the week of Maddie’s surgery? Of course.
But with an incredibly successful procedure by some of the finest professionals in the country now in the rearview mirror, Team Maddie isn’t about surgery.
Team Maddie is about the long, wonderful life that that sweet little girl is going to lead, making her parents incredibly proud. It only felt fitting to have Team Maddie sponsor the start of a week of pure happiness -- starting with my second day visiting my best friend here in gorgeous Nashville, Tennessee.
So, Amy, the smiles I wear these next four days are for you -- and for Maddie. Thank you for believing in me, supporting me and keeping ME strong as I live my dreams. I’m honored to be able to help spread the word about your daughter’s ongoing battle against this terrible disease -- and to keep a splash of Maddie Yellow in all of my own happy moments this summer.
To join Team Maddie, please visit the Facebook page here.