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Monday, November 22, 2010

One of My Favorite People on Oprah

Phillip Woods is from our town and he is an extraordinary person.  His grandson is in Thomas's class and we're privileged to know some of his family, some of whom are our neighbors.

In order to encourage Americans to get active, Phil walked 2,500 miles (Wisconsin to Key West, FL) this year.  With his wife Carole driving along side and acting as nurse, I followed his journey through Facebook and updates from his family.

Phil was on today's Oprah show.  He was there for the surprise "Favorite Things Part 2" event, having received tickets because he was nominated as An American Hero.  He came away with some fantastic gifts.  He especially enjoyed hearing Johnny Mathes sing live.  I just watched the TiVo'd show - and I think I glimpsed Phil a couple of times among the chaos!

Here's Phil crossing the finish line on October 16th in Key West.

And here are Phil's thoughts at the end of his experience:

"Words cannot express the appreciation and fulfillment I have from all the people who have supported me and embraced my effort to tell America to “Get Active”.

When my thought processes began for this 2,500 mile endeavor and what it might bring, I could only imagine the kind of participation I might get and how it might it end. Would anyone hear me, would anyone care to listen to what I had to say? Would I be able to motivate anyone to action like I was hoping? Would my call to action spread from one person to another and actually become a movement of people bettering themselves and bettering their communities? Will any success I have continue beyond the end of my walk?

Now, on the other side of 2,500 miles and the realization of my goal; my mission for America has also been achieved, thanks to all of you: my friends and family and all the acquaintances I have met along the way.

The celebration to highlight the end of my journey was a beautiful event and one I will never forget. On Saturday, October 16th, at 4:00pm we gathered together at the Westin in Key West, a mile away from the southernmost point of the United States, ready to begin the final steps. As we were waiting, I received a phone call from a long time close friend, Gene Hull, who, although he was unable to make the trip, was going to be walking a simultaneous final mile at the very same time as us only 1,100 miles north. How cool was that thought!?

We began the walk with Carole and me leading the way. The weather could not have been more perfect for our walk. Though the sun was shining, Whitehead Street on which we traveled was lined with gorgeous trees creating shade for us. The temperature was mild and the breeze ideal. As we made our way down the Street, I enjoyed falling back and talking with my fellow walkers and letting them know how much it meant to me for them to be a part of this very special event in my life. As we approached the iconic buoy marking the end of the journey, the walkers parted in to two lines on each side of the sidewalk to make a path revealing two of my grandchildren holding a banner through which Carole and I ran, hands held high while the people cheered and chanted “Walk With Woods”. How exhilarating!

We spent some time and had a ton of fun waiting our turn getting pictures taken next to the buoy. Then we headed to the historic Southernmost House to celebrate the occasion.

Our celebration began with the Key West Mayor Craig Cates reading a proclamation making October 16th, 2010 Phil Woods Day in Key West. I never cease to be flattered by these declarations.

Thank you to all those people who think me worthy of the honor.

The kids pinned a nurse’s cap on Carole and presented her with a birthday cake and well wishes for her upcoming big birthday on Wednesday. We all joined in singing Happy Birthday.

Then a surprise happened that left me speechless. Jay Goad, from Cummins MidAmerica, representing my friends from the North American Distribution of Cummins Engine Company, came forward with all my distributor friends who were in Key West and presented me with a dramatic oversized check to Hospice of South Central Indiana for $5,000 given in my honor. I am so humbled by their thoughtfulness I don’t know what to say. Not only are these the best people in the world to work with as business partners, but they make even better friends. You will always hold a special place in my heart, gentlemen.

Next, the president of the Key West Southernmost Runners Club; Susan Kochan, pronounced me an honorary member of the club. Once again, I feel privileged to receive such an honor and am proud to be considered part of their club.

As the finale to the ceremony, I did get the opportunity to take the microphone to give a little reflection on mine and Carole’s journey and to convey my appreciation and gratitude to all those who participated in any way toward the success of this enormous vision of mine.

In the end, it appears the answer to the questions I had before I began, is Yes. People did hear me and listen to what I had to say. People did let me know they had been inspired to action by my crossing their path. Their motivation did spread from one to another as they shared stories with me about how they got their family and friends inspired, too. From that inspiration, it is my hope the momentum continues to grow beyond the end of my walk in to a movement and each small act of kindness reveals itself through improvements in each of our communities.

Though I have ended my walk, I will never stop striving for a better America. I will continue to talk to everyone I meet about getting active toward being the best person they can be, about doing an act of kindness each and every day and about contributing in positive, active ways toward bettering their communities. If we all do that, then we HAVE achieved a better America.

And, before I depart their company, I will leave them with my mantra:

“If you can dream it, you can do it.”

I did."

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