September 2, 2020
To my Dear Friends of EverWalk Nation,
Today Bonnie and I are taking a moment to remember. Today, seven years ago, we at long last completed the epic expedition we had worked so hard for, for so many years. Strong swimmers had been trying since 1950, but on this day in 2013, we were the ones who finally made history. Our team learned from each failed attempt. We refused to give up. And we were greeted by both a screaming crowd on Key West’s Smathers Beach and by 25 million fans around the world after I successfully swam unaided the 110.86 miles from Havana to Key West.
Back in the 1970s, my 20s, when I was swimming oceans and lakes all around the globe, it was the magic of Cuba, that forbidden island just off the coast where I grew up in Florida, that buzzed in my brain. There were so many magical and interesting aspects to the expedition.
It took a world-class team. A mathematical genius navigator to get me across the mighty Gulf Stream, experts of sharks in the tropics and of the lethal box jellyfish, a team of ER doctors, kayakers with shark deterrent devices on the hulls of their boats, and a personal Handler team (Bonnie and her team) in charge of my life, my safety.
There was fascinating science, from the animals to the ocean/wind currents, to the meteorology of highly unpredictable weather patterns.
There was the core issue of the human will. What came to be viewed as flat-out impossible was something I would not accept. I displayed the courage to fail, pursuing a quest that would push me to my ultimate potential, willing to discover a myriad of things about myself through the duress of the journey, even if I never did reach the destination.
The story of my Cuba Swim journey has been told in many formats. There was a Showtime documentary film by Timothy Wheeler, watched by a wide audience, called The Other Shore. Oprah featured me on her Super Soul Sunday program. I wrote a memoir driven by the swim narrative, Find a Way. Hollywood is working on the feature film version. Bonnie and I a year ago performed my play The Swimmer off-Broadway at the Minetta Lane Theater. Bill and Hillary Clinton attended on closing night!
But one element of the swim I was never asked much about by interviewers was the cost. Any major expedition needs funding. Snow-shoe treks across Antarctica, climbing teams heading up the major alpine peaks, rafting teams that set out to tackle the big-time waterfall rivers—they need training and travel and actual action cash. And so it was for us. We needed a training camp set-up in the Caribbean, where Bonnie and I and our key crew could spend nine months of the year, heading out with our boat for as many as 24 hours a day. Even though our crew were never paid salaries, they were taking time off their work and they needed basic expenses paid. Taking 44 people, our team, to Cuba on five large boats, with sophisticated electronic gear, Cuban (wink wink from the dock authorities, cash only) logistics fees, boat gas, going several times as the attempts piled on, cost us plenty. Then there was the sequestering time in Key West, again the crew needing housing and food paid.
And, as much as I loathe asking anybody for money, I never had trouble asking for the Cuba Swim. It was a noble vision, even beyond the athletic part–an attempt to connect our two estranged peoples, and I found the sponsors and contributors quickly wanted to be part of something that wound up inspiring millions of people around the world.
This is the part where EverWalk comes into the story. Our beloved EverWalk has its roots in the Cuba Swim. Bonnie and I wanted to give to the public at large, as a gift, the elevated experience we had out on the ocean. We fell in love with the planet. We were in awe of that vast ocean. We wanted to replicate for the masses that feeling of moving across the curvature of the earth under one’s own power. Walking was the answer.
Five years ago, we got to work and opened the EverWalk doors. We had no business background; we created no formal business plan. Companies we’d meet with would joke that I should be their COI, Chief of Inspiration. We landed our first big deal with Johnson & Johnson, which allowed us to both build our first web site and host our first EPIC walk, from Los Angeles to San Diego.
Five years later, we are proud as punch of what we have created. We’re a small staff of five, but we’re smart and literally every week we bust out with new programs, new assets, new thinking. Along with myself and Bonnie, Gaby Fisch, Victoria Price, and Tom Maglio step up with their immense talents and their proven loyalty every single day. And now 2020, Bonnie and I have returned full circle to our ocean core. We’ve launched OceansCommit, our first event planned for a year from now, September 2021, The Ocean Walk. EverWalk is expanding its horizons, planning to host a series of long walks (also every day offering The EverWalk Mile and a one-mile swim), with the commitment to curb plastic pollution of our majestic seas.
They say starting a small business is usually a losing proposition. We can empathize with so many small businesses that are either folding, or struggling with little reason to believe they’ll make it, due to Covid era shutdowns. And, in keeping with the financial stresses of our current times, it’s not a welcome request these days, to ask individuals for contributions, no matter how meaningful the cause.
We are highly sensitive to your own personal financial worries. Our team knows each one of us only too well what you’re going through. Yet surveys today tell us that many Americans are not looking forward to a future of splurging vacations. They’re not thirsty for extravagant material goods. What draws people right now, including us, is
inspiration. It’s the chance to be part of helping Mother Earth recover from the abuses we the human race have forged upon her. It’s the desire to join in a movement that leads to optimum health, that gets a community appreciating the beauty of their outdoor corridors, that leads us to the joy and the empowerment that comes with traveling the earth on our own two legs.
It’s audacious, we are well aware. The timing is likely miserable. But, just as we were believers in the lofty tenets of the Cuba Swim, we are now immersed in the high-minded principles that drive both EverWalk and OceansCommit.
And thus, for the first time, we are reaching out to you for support. Whether you are with us in our EverWalk journey to make walking a daily habit of all Americans OR/AND you are moved by our walking events to drastically reduce plastic pollution of our oceans, OceansCommit, will you please consider giving us even a small contribution?
To donate, please click the yellow DONATE button on this page. Or click HERE.
There. I did it. I asked you. On one hand, it isn’t easy. I sincerely, as does Bonnie, want to give to you the heart and soul of our work, not ask you to give to us. But we’re believers in our work. And we know many of you feel the same way.