April 29, 2005

Give Brock Pooler Ten Bucks

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Thirty-four. That’s about how many times my ugly mug has appeared on The Sun’s back page since Chew on This debuted a little less than two years ago. This is my last chance to make you read it.

My hope is that a few fond memories, a bit of advice, and some overdue thank-yous will keep your attention at least through half a bagel and cup of coffee. But who am I kidding? So, before I toot my own horn, I want to toot someone else’s: Brock Pooler. This summer, the senior will join more than 100 other members of the Pi Kappa Phi national fraternity on “The Journey of Hope,” a cross-country bike ride that benefits people with disabilities.

“I try to look for the intangible things in life. That’s what drives me — the experiences,” Brock said. “They say that ‘The Journey of Hope’ touches lives, and I think it will. I know it will touch mine, and I want, in turn, to touch others.”

Come June, Brock and his fellow riders will begin their trek from San Francisco and Portland, Ore. to Washington, D.C. Over 10 weeks, they will follow three different routes, covering 4,000 miles of American road and reaching 71,102,458 people. Along the way, these brothers will ascend the Sierras and traverse the Rockies; bake under blazing sun in the Southwest and endure boredom in the Heartland; witness poverty in Appalachia and decay in the Rust Belt.

In each of these places, the cyclists will donate money and time to raise public awareness and help those less fortunate.

“A lot of people that we serve have cerebral palsy, autism, down syndrome. They might have a hearing disability or another kind of developmental disability. But it’s not only the people who need help, it’s the local charitable organizations who serve people with disabilities in their communities,” Pooler said. “At these places, we’ll play a wheelchair basketball game, have a dance — anything to share with them and concentrate on the positive things in life and be happy.”

Brock already has nearly everything he’ll need complete the Journey: a team, a desire, a helmet, and a heart. Only one thing stands in his way — money.

You see, in order to join “The Journey of Hope,” each rider must independently raise $5,000. That money won’t cover hotel rooms or pasta dinners — it won’t even buy Brock a new gel seat. Instead, foundations like Easter Seals will house and feed the riders so that their money can go entirely to charity.

To date, Pooler has raised a little more than $1,000, but he needs your help to come up with the rest.

“I’ve gotten support from some sororities and fraternities on campus, and I also have a FaceBook.com group called ‘Brock Pooler Journey of Hope’. Tony Cashen, an alumni of Delta Upsilon has also pledged to match dollar-for-dollar if I can raise $1,000 in the next week,” Pooler said. “The question is, ‘Is this kind of thing worth five, 10, 20 dollars to you? Is it worth more?’ One of my friends gave me a check for $200 — I hugged him.”

Of all the people vying for your money, Brock Pooler is one who should get it, and donating to his cause is easy (just look at the end of this column). Spare the price of one drink at The Palms. Pass a hat at your chapter meeting. Save some recycling money from Wegman’s. Every contribution you make will help Brock help others.

Part of me — and probably part of you — wants to give back just like Brock, but few of us can say we have or will. For me, a lack of time, or more probably a lack of effort, prevented going that extra mile. I only hope that through Chew on This, I’ve given back at least a little bit to this place and to anyone who gave this column a chance.

If you read about the collision that broke Jansen Noyes’ ’04 arm in IM softball, or about the time my friends and I slid naked down Libe Slope, maybe you laughed; if you read about the shot that killed George Boiardi ’04 in a lacrosse game, maybe you cried.

If you read about Ron Holtman and my high school football team, or about Mitch Albom and Tuesday’s With Morrie, maybe you remembered your favorite coach and best teacher; or if you read the story about Charlie Felker and the Black Knights of Army, maybe you prayed for our soldiers’ safe return from Afghanistan and Iraq.

If you read about Cornell’s lackluster support for its teams, or about Sparks-injected road trips, maybe you finally made it to Schoellkopf or felt inspired to take an excursion of your own.

If you are a senior, and you read about “the first of lasts,” maybe you reflected on your time here and lived every day this year like there was no tomorrow.

Those are the things Chew on This meant to me, and those are things I hoped the column would do: discuss anything, not just sports; evoke real feelings, not just athletic allegiance; provoke thoughts and actions, not just fill space on a page. I failed to do that a few times, maybe more often than not; but those instances when someone enjoyed what they read or chewed me out for what I’d said made the work and the ridicule worthwhile.

Everyone graduating this year can probably say the same, that they did their best and failed sometimes, but savored every morsel of fun and success when it came their way. To anyone whose class year ends in a number greater than five, take that message and run with it: do everything you possibly can here, because here may be the only place you’ll ever get to do it.

Buy a three-man sling shot and put fruit from one of the dining halls in it, then shoot that fruit off your balcony. Run away and hide the evidence when people start to point.

Stay on campus over fall break with some of your hall mates and walk down to the gorge. Have a contest to see who can keep his feet in the water longest.

Live here one summer and enjoy this place at its finest. Run to the plantations, shower in the gorge, then go to the bars reeking of Eau d’ Fall Creek. No one will know it isn’t Aqua D’gio.

Sled down the slope in the winter, fall, and spring. In the fall, rain slicks the grass just enough to get you going at a good clip. In the spring, buy a slip ‘n slide or four and grease yourself with baby oil to get the ride of your life.

Play a game that involves nothing more than a tennis ball and an obtuse wall. Make up strange fouls and name them after people who commit them often. Play this game until your hands hurt. You will come to love it.

Drive as far away from here as possible with as many people as possible in the car. Try to get free food along the way by bartering and flirting with McDonald’s drive-thru operators. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again — they give in eventually.

Get a dog. I got mine at a car wash, and he turned out just fine.

Wear sunscreen. Just kidding, it’s Ithaca.

But really, take pictures of everything. Whether the heap of trash on your dorm room floor that disgusts your parents when they come to visit, the beeramid you built during orientation week, your friend dressed up like Elvis on a wine tour, or yourself coming home from an all-nighter looking more disheveled than a streetcar hobo, you will laugh at these scenes years from now and remember the good old days. Don’t ever show your children.

Most importantly, do these things with your best friends. At least you’ll be able to reminisce with them long after your hard drive crashes, and you lose your digital photo library.

In fact, were it not for friends, I may have left this place after first semester freshman year, and I certainly would not have lasted long enough to have such a great time. Those people deserve the sincerest thank you.

First, to the men of the Chi. Though too numerous to mention by name, you’re all the best, especially the boys of the 21st. From the days of University Avenue near-death 180s, wee men who went bump in the night, and Cyclops’ fichus, to the BCH and Queen-sponsored power hours, we’ve had a great run. June 1, I’m buying a case of red wine. On a beautiful day in the summer of 2055, I fully expect to share it with all of you on the back porch of the PCH. And just like that win
e, I fully expect we’ll get better, if not more full-bodied, with age.

To my other brothers, the paperboys: sports will never be better. Ozone. Twenty-five years ago, our dads appeared on the same sports page, and now we do? Thanks for volunteering to DD just about everywhere, for clogging my in-box, and for saving me from more than one hairy situation — especially Freda’s high kick. Beefy, your’re quite the oxymoron. Your plumpness reminds me of a toddler; your antics, of Clarence Thomas. Don’t forget to carry this one. Sheahen. You can take the boy out of the OC, but you can’t take the OC out of the boy, and you definitely can’t take all that Revlon mousse out of your hair. It’s like the new afro for the white man.

Travis Lee. Oh, woops, that’s Brain Train eating a salad. Just a few more Caesar’s, and you, too, can have a chiseled physique.

To Caitlin, my most enduring girl friend, since your salary next year will triple mine, you’re buying plane tickets. And if you ever need a marathon training partner, just remember I’m only a phone call away — and so is my 10-speed.

To D, who deserves the real credit for naming this column, you’re going places. Where, I don’t know, but I hope we run into each other there.

To Ali P, I’m not sure about that mutt of yours, but I’m sure about you. You drive me crazier than a pack of feral Corsican pigs. Always remember, call me anything you want, just not viral.

To my family. This senior class has seen its share of loss: a lacrosse player, a football player, a wrestler, a swimmer, a grad student, and a promising senior. Each time tragedy strikes, I think about how the families of those people must feel and, more importantly, of how fortunate I am to have you. Nothing could be better than coming home to the shoe queen, the old man, the Cheerios kid, and Smelliot. I love you guys.

And finally, to Brock Pooler. Although Chew on This and The Journey of Hope ostensibly have little in common, I’d like to think he and I share similar motivation: making people feel, think, and act. Like Brock, I felt nervous at the beginning of this trip, and I wasn’t sure how it would turn out. But, like Brock, after doing this, I feel like I’ve accomplished something.

If you would like to donate to Brock Pooler’s Journey of Hope, you may contact him via email at bbp2@cornell.edu or at 55 Ridgewood Road, Ithaca, NY 14850.

Archived article by Everett Hullverson