Tag: A Year to Volunteer


One of the things that my mother was notorious of was always wanting to surprise people.

Her entire life, she really seemed to enjoy surprising others.  On her travels, she brought this to an entirely different level.  She would simply show up on the doorsteps of friends and family who had no idea that she would be there.  This was long before the days of social media, so in most instances, people had no idea that she was in the area.  Many times, they didn’t even know that she embarked on her solo road trip across the country.

I did a leg of that trip with her down the east coast from Pennsylvania to Florida between my Junior and Senior year of high school.  On just that short span, she thought that it would be a great idea to stop and surprise my cousin, Paul, or “Tink” as we still called him.  He was a Lieutenant in the Marine Corps, stationed at Quantico.  Sure enough, she thought that it would be “neat” to show up unannounced on his doorstep at about 7:15 in the morning.  We arrived in his driveway, and the debate started.  She wanted me to go up and ring his doorbell and tell him that I was lost.  I said, “No way!”  Tink was the oldest of our cousins on my mom’s side, and to say that he was an intimating figure would be an understatement of epic proportions.  He was a former Division I college football player and as I had mentioned earlier, currently a Lieutenant in the Marine Corps.  I hadn’t seen him since I was probably about 11 or 12 years old.  The thought of a soon to be 17-year-old kid with a mullet waking up a Marine at 7:15 AM by ringing his doorbell just didn’t seem like it would end well for said soon to be 17-year-old with a mullet.

However, debating with my mother was rarely a winnable task, so, there I was walking up to Tink’s door, stopping and turning around and seeing my mother, then continuing what would surely be my death walk to the front door.  I sheepishly rang the doorbell and anxiously waited for my certain demise.

Tink answered the door in his gym shorts and torn up t-shirt and went about the routine saying that I was lost as my mom quickly sprung out from around the corner, yelling, “Well I figured if you wouldn’t be able to make it to the family reunion, we had to stop by and see you on our way to it!”

“Aunt Loretta! …and is this, Danny!?  Oh my God, you’re so big now!”  Tink exclaimed.  “What a great surprise!  What are you guys doing here?”

There it was, she did it. Tink was so happy to see us.  He immediately invited us into the house and introduced us to his wife and stepson, who neither of us had even met yet.  I can only imagine what they may have been thinking at that moment.

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37 Days

During our first week, at our first Left-Right-Center game, we met a couple that we just knew we had a connection with.  Isn’t it amazing how sometimes you just feel a vibe with people.  You just meet them, yet you feel like you have known them for your entire lifetime.  Well, that was Jason and Sara Brelsfoard.  They sat next to us during the game and we immediately connected.  Jason had us laughing from the time he said hello to the time he said good-bye to us that night.  Sara may have been slightly embarrassed on occasion, but she seemed to take everything in stride.

They own what Jason calls a “small” 800-acre farm in central Illinois.  Sara is also a massage therapist.  Jason was immediately intrigued by our full-time RV lifestyle.  He loves what he does, but recognizes that life is short.  He wants to be able to live and enjoy life, not just work until he dies.

We made sure that Jason and Sara made it to trivia the next night and began sitting with them at each campground function that we were at together.  We’d stop by their site and chat and they would do the same.  They came to listen to me speak and bought a couple of my books.  They really did feel like family.

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Three Years

Three years ago today, Sandy, Youk, and I set out on this crazy full-time RV journey.

Since that time, we’ve been to 43 states and a little piece of Canada.  We have traveled over 56,000 miles, and made countless new friends and memories.  We’ve been awed by God’s beautiful creation time and time again.  We have visited family and friends that we hadn’t seen in years.  We have also made sure to get back to see our family and friends that we had left back in Pennsylvania often.

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A Return Visit to Sam Houston Jones State Park

Among many other things, our group built a fence at the entrance, repainted the office, built tent pads, built a 500’ fishing pier/boardwalk, repainted signs, cleaned up tons of debris, grinded countless stumps, planted wildflowers, refinished playground equipment, cleared and rebuilt the Orange Trail, built culvert dams, and painted a flag pole.

It was a project that was extremely gratifying.

I think even more so for Sandy and I because we have friends in the area and we helped with relief efforts in the area a couple of weeks after Laura came through.

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Birds of a Feather

As the old English proverb says, “Birds of a feather flock together.”

The meaning of the proverb is that beings (typically humans) of similar type, interest, personality, character, or another distinctive attribute tend to mutually associate.

I think that is a great description for the fellow volunteers who we have met over the past couple of years through A Year to Volunteer (Y2V). It was no different for those who came together at our most recent Y2V project at the Raptor Education Group (REGI) in Antigo, Wisconsin.  Just like the birds that we would be helping for the next two weeks, our group of volunteers migrated from all over the country to land in Antigo.  We came from the north, south, east, and west to lend a hand to this amazing organization.  We were all from different backgrounds, yet all have the same desire to give back.  Many of us had worked on previous projects together, so we greeted each other with smiles and hugs.

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We moved for a month, then stopped again

When my mommy and daddy were volunteering at the bird place in Wisconsin, me and daddy would get up early and walk on some of the really neat trails around where we were staying.  Then on some days, me and mommy and daddy would go for another walk in the afternoon when they were done volunteering!  Those days were the best days!

I loved getting to see all my friends that mommy and daddy volunteer with too.  They all love me.  Phil and Shar, John and Karen, Tom and Theresa, Gary and Jan, Eric and Jen, Jeff and Susan, Dennis and Debbie, Orien, and then I met John and Vicki too.  Then in the second week of the project, I was surprised when I saw Mike and Terri walking past our house on wheels!  I was so excited to see Mike that I almost pulled my daddy over just to get to him so that he could pet me!  Mike is a really good petter!  He hits all the right spots!  Terri is a really good petter too!  That made my day when I saw Mike and Terri.

After we left the bird place, we were heading back to Pennsylvania, but we were going to take the long way there.  We went back through the Michigan Upper Peninsula, just like when we went out to the bird place.  Our first night we stayed on a farm and they had nice trails there.  Me and mommy and daddy took a nice hike there.

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A Day to Remember

September 11th is a day that I will never forget for multiple reasons.

I remember it because of the tragic events that took place that day and I remember it because of the work that my mom did during relief efforts with the Salvation Army at Ground Zero in the months following that fateful day.

Today, on September 11, 2022, 21 years after that horrific day, I sit in a Wal-Mart parking lot in Antigo, Wisconsin waiting for Sandy to get our supplies for the next two weeks as I write this.  Once she gets back to the RV, we’ll head a few miles down the road to meet our friends from A Year to Volunteer (Y2V) and prepare for a two-week volunteer project at the Raptor Education Group (REGI).

I find it ironically fitting that we are preparing for a volunteer project on September 11th.

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Peace, Love, and Music

Our neighbors for the weekend greeted us with smiles and offered any help we needed setting up.  Quickly understanding the concept, I helped our one set of neighbors get their pop-up tent in place.  When they heard that we were first-time festival goers, they’d quickly offer advice as to the best practices to get the most out of the festival.

Hearing the stories about how long some of these people had been attending the festival was absolutely amazing.  One had been coming every year since 1969, others were at their 15th, 20th or 30th festival.  One guy, now in his 30’s grew up at the festival, first attending with his parents as an infant and continuing to make the trek now as an adult.  They came from all over, near and far.  The gentleman that has been coming since 1969, Allen, flew in from Ogden, Utah and rented an RV for the weekend with a buddy.  He originally grew up in the Philly area, but said that he’d never miss a fest, regardless of the distance that he might have to travel.  When I told him that this was our festival, he said, “Man I gotta give you a hug, this is gonna change your life!  There’s nothing here but peace, love, and music.”

At this point, we were only there for about an hour, but I knew that we in a special place.  This wasn’t just a music festival; it was a community.

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We’ve been in Pennsylvania for a Longtime

After Knoebel’s, we went to Stephie and Eric’s house for a little over a week.  That was fun too.  Eric put in 30-amp service just for me!  That way I could stay cool in the air conditioning on the days that it got really hot.  And let me tell you, it got really hot on some of those days!  Daddy and I would have to get up at like 5 o’clock in the morning so that we could get our walks in before it was too hot.  We went on some long walks too.  One day, we walked over eight miles.  Daddy was tired, but I could have kept walking.  Me and daddy are training to do the Mammoth March in New Jersey on October 2.  That’s a 20=mile hike that we have to do in eight hours.  Rebecca is going to meet us there and hike with us.  Mommy is volunteering and helping the organizers run the event.  I’m so excited about that.  Sometimes I really have to stay on daddy to keep up our training.  He’ll want to sleep in, but I’m right there to nudge him with my cold nose so that he gets his last butt out of bed and we can train for the Mammoth March.

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