After my eight years on ER, my wife sold her cosmetics company and we found ourselves ready to fulfill a mutual fantasy to embark on an extended trip traveling around the world. With four children and our eldest quickly approaching their high school years, we realized the time to begin this adventure was now.
The trip will always be at the core of our family, a centering point which we can all turn to for some of our best memories. It was a year that slowed the clock down. When days are so full and new worlds only a week or two away, your senses are on a heightened level, forcing you to live in the moment. There is no time for dullness to infiltrate your days or routine to set in.
Africa was a continent that was such a huge mystery to me. My childhood fantasy was to be a National Geographic photographer. Photographs have always stirred the imagination. On this adventure, I was getting to jump into the images and explore. From Northern Africa to Western Africa, South Africa and finally to East Africa the journey was priceless. Photographs can never capture the pleasure of meeting people; the personal and often small but moving exchanges of sharing moments.
One event involved going out for a jog. We were in the Maasai Mara on a safari when Lettura, a young Masaai, took me out for a run. There we were, two people from completely opposite sides of the world jogging along sharing stories of family, life and friends; the common threads we all share.
I returned to New York looking for a way to continue this run. I got involved with Shoe4Africa, an amazing organization empowering the African community through the use of sports and education. Shoe4Africa was originally founded by Toby Tanser who has distributed thousands of shoes, using sporting events as a platform to promote AIDS awareness, have HIV testing, and other health initiatives in cooperation with local health authorities.
Within a few months I went back to Africa to ask Lettura if he would run in the New York City marathon for Shoe4Africa. Our journey, which also included Lettura running the 2007 NYC marathon, was captured in a documentary currently featured on Snag Films. Watch it here:
From Lettura's first step in the United States for the 2007 NYC marathon, to the running steps of nearly forty runners from around the world who earlier this year ran the 2009 NYC Marathon on Team Shoe4Africa, our steps kept growing and now we're embarking on a bigger destination: building the first children's public hospital in Lettura's homeland. This hospital aims to reverse the high infant mortality rates where 180 out of 1000 infants die. Too many Kenyan doctors are leaving Kenya because of the frustrations of no medical equipment and overcrowding. As one Kenyan doctor said, "Give us the basics you have in the West and we can do miracles in Africa." This hospital gives them that opportunity. We've enlisted an extraordinary team of neurosurgeons, pediatricians, designers, architects, contractors, and financial planners to help relieve 141% occupancy of the children's ward of the area hospital, where four sick Kenyan children to every bed is the norm. No CT scans. No MRI machines. No access to basic medicines that American citizens have taken for granted for generations. Our New York City marathon run raised over $120,000 for the hospital, bringing us to more than $600,000 raised thus far. We need a lot more support, as there are a lot of miles left to run to cross this finish line. It's been nearly three years since I took that run in the Mara. I often think about how profoundly different my life would be had I just relaxed in say, the Bahamas. With the holiday season upon us and as we reflect on giving back to our fellow men and women, please think about taking a step with us to bring this hospital to life. We can do extraordinary things once we get moving. See the plans and donate at www.shoe4africa.org.