Updated: Mar 18
Hosted on Sunday, October 2nd in Southborough, MA, our Inaugural Dog Walk attracted over 130 people and 50 dogs for a 3-mile walk in memory of Shannon McDonald.
What a day!
There is simply no other expression that better captures this event and our amazement at the turnout and support for Shannon's Path. The Dog Walk, held on October 2nd, attracted over 130 participants and 50 dogs - all walking to raise money for rare cancer research and care.
The morning was filled with celebration as family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, medical professionals from Shannon's care team, and many other members of Shannon's broader communities all gathered together to take pictures, share memories, and eventually walk together with their four-legged friends down Shannon's daily 3-mile loop.
A Clear Vision
As the inaugural fundraising event for Shannon's Path, we started small and focused on our community and close-knit circle of friends. Throughout Shannon's journey with cancer, and especially following her passing, we were constantly surrounded and supported by people who shared Shannon's core value of helping others. This community support originally inspired Shannon and our entire family to keep fighting, and now it serves as equal inspiration for our mission of continuing Shannon's legacy. In planning this dog walk, we hoped to harness the energy of our Southborough community to create an event for all to enjoy and feel Shannon's presence.
The idea behind a dog walk fundraiser actually came pretty naturally. Shannon could always be found walking our dogs Cisco, Colby, Ollie, and Finn throughout town, almost always in the company of family and friends. She cherished this time with her pups and those she ran into along the way. Even after beginning routine chemotherapy treatment, Shannon's daily walks continued. She was determined to maintain her normal schedule and sought the opportunity to get outside and interact with neighbors who were so important to her.
With these memories in mind, we had the vision for our inaugural event. Although she never attended a charity event similar to this, we knew that this was an event she would have adored. After all, Shannon was never phased by the chaos of many dogs interacting. Instead, she thrived on the energy.
Walking Shannon's Path
While Shannon clearly would have loved to attend this event, the three of us were not sure if we should expect a successful fundraiser or a calamitous gathering of 50 dogs who did not get along. Much to our surprise, we pulled off the former.
Close family and friends arrived early in the morning to help set up the check-in tables, swag stations, refreshments, audio equipment, as well as the balloon arch and other essentials. Sam and Jackson drove the route strategically placing signs to ensure walkers followed the path.
Shortly before 10 am, registrants began arriving, checked in, and collected their goodie bags (which contained both human and K-9 treats), t-shirts, and dog bandanas. Not long after, we kicked off the event with opening remarks about our inspiration, mission, and commitment to doing our part in funding rare cancer research and care.
Sam began by sharing how Shannon paved the way, constantly working to set an example for the three of us to follow after her passing. Her strength, determination, and ethos of living each day to the fullest ultimately served as the key inspiration for sharing Shannon's life path with others.
"Her infectious devotion to placing others before herself, spreading kindness, laughter, smiles, and positivity, and her determination to live each day to the fullest, taught us how to move forward and honor her legacy. To the three of us, Shannon’s Path represents not just my mom’s medical approach and mindset to confronting one of life’s cruelest paths, but also her commitment to prioritizing others and brightening someone’s day."
Howie then followed, sharing his own take on Shannon's approach to confronting one of life's harshest curveballs.
"Life is full of paths. Small ones, big ones, singular or overlapping, important or inconsequential. Some are consciously planned, while others are predestined. They can be purposely set to navigate through important life milestones like marriage, children and career. Or, simply how to easily get from Point A to Point B. Regardless of their desired outcome or intent, they guide us from a starting point to a destination. What matters most is how we conduct ourselves, how we commit ourselves, while on our paths...
...Shannon listened to trusted friends and referrals and immediately began a cross section of integrative therapies to help her deal with the significant side effects of the chemotherapy (the first being a platinum based cocktail). She dedicated herself to therapy, acupuncture, reiki, energy healing, fitness training, and naturopathy and trained her mind to best handle her treatments to allow her to live in the present. Without a doubt these helped her immensely, to the point that she was able to live 2x as long as her original prognosis."
Determined to face cancer on her own terms, Shannon sought the care of every possible integrative care specialist and medical approach. As Howie explained, these treatments are rarely covered by insurance, leading to a significant financial burden for many families. As we close our first year of fundraising, Shannon's Path hopes to provide support for patients seeking these treatment options.
In closing these remarks, Howie explained to the participants that not only are they partaking in Shannon's metaphorical path and life approach, but that they would be walking the 3-mile loop that Shannon frequently walked with our dogs.
"This WAS her path, and as we walk it today, let's consider how Shannon valiantly stayed true to herself and how we now honor her by helping others."
With this motivating message in mind, walkers and their dogs then filed through the dog-themed balloon arch and continued on the loop through Southborough.
A Special Thank You
This event would not have been possible without the steadfast support of numerous neighbors, family members, and friends who all pitched in to ensure a wonderful morning.
Additionally, we are incredibly grateful to our corporate partners listed below:
Andrew Abu Realtors
B.Mitchell Hair Salon
Middlesex Savings Bank
NY Bagel Factory
Ocean Spray Cranberries
Prestige Capital Group
Redmond Design Group