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Saul Wisnia

Virtual walk proves a satisfying trek


Saul Wisnia and son Jason were in Michigan for Jimmy Fund Walk weekend, so they took a "virtual walk" in Michigan.

Saul Wisnia and son Jason were in Michigan for Jimmy Fund Walk weekend, so they took a "virtual walk" in Michigan.

Sometimes it's not about the miles. That's what I realized when I missed my first Boston Marathon® Jimmy Fund Walk in 10 years on Sept. 16, 2007.

The event coincided with my mother-in-law, Agi Alpert's, "unveiling" — a Jewish religious service in which a person's gravestone is first revealed to his or her family — and I was in a Michigan cemetery just as folks were lacing up their sneakers in Hopkinton. The irony was that Agi had been a Dana-Farber patient who fought ovarian cancer for three years before dying in February 2007. This was the second time in two years that cancer had claimed a member of my close family: In the summer of 2006 my stepfather, Michael Carlin, also a Dana-Farber patient, died of pancreatic cancer.

Naturally, I had honored Michael and Agi's brave battles during the past several Walks, and not having the chance to do so this year was very disappointing. Then I remembered hearing about the new "virtual walker" program, in which those who couldn't attend the event could still raise funds for the cause. Although no specific distance is required of virtual walkers, I planned to trek 26.2 miles around a high school track in Michigan, joined for at least a few laps by my family. I set up my Web page and packed my sweats.

My initial enthusiasm proved a bit overzealous. The trip to Michigan also happened to fall during Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and between synagogue, family dinners, and the unveiling there was little time left to fit in a six-hour walk/run. The best I could do was about seven miles on a treadmill and some running around in Agi's backyard with my son, daughter, nephew, and nieces. I missed seeing the mile-marker signs along the Hopkinton-to-Boston route adorned with photos and messages from Walk "Heroes" — young Jimmy Fund Clinic patients — so I looked at them online instead. The smiles of heroes like 5-year-old Jessica, who "loves karate, dance, reading, and playing jokes on people" shone just as brightly on my computer screen.

Friends and family have come through again with contributions, including my 6-year-old son, Jason. He had traveled the last leg of the Jimmy Fund route alongside me in the past (first by stroller, then red wagon, then feet), but he has just started to understand the fundraising component. Thinking of his basketball bank, he asked me, "Dad, do you think if I give the Jimmy Fund all my money, they'll be able to heal everybody?"

I told him I wasn't sure, but it would certainly be a good start.

Pacesetter Saul Wisnia plans to be back on the Hopkinton-to-Boston course next fall with his family for his 12th Jimmy Fund Walk.

Wisnia's Walk support team included Agi's five grandchildren (from left): Jonathan, Jennifer, Madeline, Jason, and Rachel.

Wisnia's Walk support team included Agi's five grandchildren (from left): Jonathan, Jennifer, Madeline, Jason, and Rachel.