We all know walking is good for our health. Walking in nature is even better. But sometimes the weather is not conducive to being outside, or our abilities don’t allow for walking on more rugged paths. Enter: Walk the Long Trail at Berlin Mall. This program is in its third year and allows people to come and walk at the mall through the winter, logging their laps to benefit GMC along the way – mall owners, Heidenberg Properties, donate funds to the Club based on the number of miles walked.
The Berlin Mall walkers have turned into quite the community. Whether they already walked at the Berlin Mall and now have renewed motivation for walking as it supports the Club, or whether they were already Club supporters who are new to walking at the mall specifically for this program, or whether their doctor or physical therapist told them to go walk at the mall for healthy physical activity, all of the walkers have come together to support GMC. If you pause in the mall’s lobby on any given day, you are sure to see walkers going by – some briskly, some more relaxed – calling out to each other as they pass, or pausing to catch up. Five days a week, you see Lorrie and Monica there.
Lorrie, or “Silver Fox” as she is known among the mall walkers, suffered an illness in 2008 that no one thought she would recover from. A simple cold sore brought with it some flu-like symptoms and led to a grand mal seizure and a diagnosis of encephalitis – and a three-week coma. With a projected survival chance of just 10%, brain damage from the virus expected to leave her in a vegetative state, and doctors saying she wouldn’t be able to breathe on her own for more than four hours at a time, Lorrie’s family agreed to end-of-life care. But when the tubes and plugs were removed and Lorrie continued to breathe on her own for three whole days, her older sister, Jill, insisted on curative treatment.
After four months in the hospital, Lorrie was still not coherent and was missing both short and long term memory abilities. After six months, she was transferred to a nursing facility where her long road to recovery began in earnest. Lorrie had to learn how to walk, talk, eat, and do everything all over again. To be able to walk again, she had to start by standing once a day, then standing for a half hour, and it was a long struggle, taking her a year to get back to walking utilizing a walker. It was another year before she could walk unaided. And Jill wasn’t going to let her quit. Lorrie is a former golf champion so Jill gave her a golf glove and said, “If you want to golf again, you’d better start walking.”
In 2010, Lorrie returned home to Vermont, where her mother still lives, to join the Traumatic Brain Injury Program for even further rehabilitation. That is a structured program that helps people after a brain injury get back as much independence as they possibly can. That’s when she began walking at the Berlin Mall, recommended by her doctor to help with back problems, and the regular walking has helped tremendously.
These days, Lorrie and her life skills aide, Monica, go to the mall five days a week and do at least four laps of the mall, equal to two miles. If they go to the gym first, they do a mile on the bike, a mile on the treadmill, then two laps of the mall. Although they have been walking at the mall for years, Lorrie has a renewed enthusiasm since the Walk the Long Trail at Berlin Mall program began in 2017. Monica logs her laps as well, and has a special connection to GMC through her brother, a longtime GMC member and volunteer who completed the Long Trail twice at the Berlin Mall last year, in addition to having end-to-end hiked the real Long Trail twice.
Lorrie wasn’t sure if walking the length of the Long Trail – 272 miles! – was possible at first, but surprised herself by completing her first of twelve trail divisions at the mall. “No pain, no gain,” is her motto. They’ve since worked up to the sixth division and Lorrie’s goal is to walk the equivalent of the whole trail. Monica’s goal for summer is “to get her back on a golf course and play, so we’re trying to build up her legs and stamina.” They’ve already played mini golf and gone to the driving range in the last year so they are well on their way to both of their goals.
The Walk the Long Trail at Berlin Mall program continues until April 24th. On that day, we will have a closing ceremony and party to celebrate all the walkers and the good work they’ve done to support GMC while also keeping moving and staying healthy. You can see the progress board of this year’s walkers here. Come out and join us by logging your miles in these last couple of weeks!