Usually in the month of June I am writing about how the four routes did on RFTW 2020! I miss the preliminary information we normally get and the great stories I enjoy sharing with you all. So, since our journey was a virtual one this year I can say by the calls and emails I have received from riders you all found a few smiles and laughs and some tears in the nostalgia of the Virtual RFTW 2020.
During the end of May I did receive calls from riders who saw the damage done to the World War II and Lincoln Memorials and feared the Vietnam Memorial Wall was damaged, too. I was at a loss to answer but must confess I had the same fear. I called John Staub, our Washington DC State Coordinator, who in turn asked his Park Service Police contacts if the “Wall” had been damaged during the riots. The Park Service Police said the “Wall” was not damaged or defaced and starting on Tuesday, June 2 National Guard troops would begin providing security for the Vietnam Wall and many others until the riots end. Moreover, we heard from the folks at Arlington National Cemetery that our wreath-laying request was granted for 2021.
In last month’s message I discussed some RFTW financial issues with you while laying out the problem we have with 2020 pins. Once again you all came through and responded in a big way. BOD Merchandise Director Ray Brammer’s big sales on pins was a big hit with you all. Now, as we approach the 4th of July, I think Ray may have in mind a surprise that you shoppers might find encouraging. Just keep an eye on the RFTW store in the coming days.
One more item before I close that I want to mention that most folks seldom hear about. RFTW every year receives water and food item donations from PepsiCo and Nestle’s that sustains RFTW riders all across the country—keeping everyone hydrated and snack happy every day of the run on most of our routes. The person who is responsible for securing all these donations and the one who makes sure they are distributed to the routes is our California State Coordinator Carol Olmstead. Carol also receives a big hand up from our M-25 chaplains. I’ve worked with Carol for many years and watched her help RFTW riders and supporters with the heart of a servant.
Carol Olmstead, photo by Jim “Hoofer” McCrain
I affectionally refer to Carol as the original “Energizer Bunny.” She makes important things happen for a whole bunch of people including all the events in Ontario prior to our departure.
Now, if that were not enough, she also runs the Southern Route’s merchandise trailer sales all the way. In 2021 Carol will handle the merchandise sales for the Sandbox Route, too. So, you ask, “But what happened to all the food and hydration that was donated for the 2020 RFTW?” Much of it would expire or be impractical to store until May 2021.
Given the postponement this year Carol found many folks throughout the country who are and were in need of these items. She has made sure that all the donations have been sent to folks in need. Many of these food stocks and hydration pallets were sent to our friends on the Navajo Reservations in New Mexico. COVID-19 has hit this area of the nation exceptionally hard and their needs were never in question. In fact, the city of Gallup, N.M. was entirely closed off due to an exceptionally hot outbreak. Great work, Carol, we appreciate everything you do!
Connie and I are heading to Tennessee for the All-Routes Reunion July 2-4. Ken “Six String” Dugas and his team have raised a lot of money and will make some special presentations at Cookeville for tornado relief. If you are so inclined to donate you may send a check to RFTW BOD Treasurer Ken Ward noting the donation is for “Cookeville Tornado Relief”– about 5 or 6 veteran homes have been identified as in big need. Looking forward to seeing some RFTW family on this reunion. Hope you have plans to make it to Tennessee, Angel Fire, N.M. and/or Kerrville, Tex., and hope to see you at one or more of the reunions! Check out the route hubs on the website for more information.
Is It May Yet?
Les “Easy” Williams
RFTW BOD President