At first glance, Rotary and wheelers are poles apart, Rotary being about service and business and professional leaders with the highest ethical standards and dedicated to building goodwill and peace in the world, while wheelers as in wheelers and dealers are people intent on getting what they want by any method and means including unfair ones. It follows therefore that Rotary Wheelers by definition is an oxymoron. The question is what messages are being conveyed and to what effects.
Well, this is the name chosen by four Rotarians of the Rotary Club of Kowloon North for their entry to Trailwalker 2001. Trailwalker is an annual charity race in Hong Kong and participating teams are required to complete the 100 kilometres of the MacLehose Trail within 48 hours as a team. It would almost be the equivalent of the Bay to Breakers Race of San Francisco except that ours is much tougher in a number of ways.
Trailwalker started in 1982 as a military exercise and became open to the public four years later. It has since become a key event on the local sporting and fund raising calendar. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the race. Over the years, the number of participating teams has varied, ranging from 400 to 700 teams. When the Queen’s Gurkha Signals were serving Hong Kong, they managed the event and tracked all contestants across the huge span of countryside until everyone was accounted for. The job has now been taken over by the Civil Aid Service and other volunteers.
The fastest record was kept by the Gurkhas themselves who ran all the way and finished in less than 13 hours. Most teams finished between 30 to 40 hours, and then there were the Morris Dancers who would have their costumes kept a few kilometers from the finishing line and who would dance their way to the finish in high spirits just before the 48 hours were up.
Every participant would vow “Never again” after they finished or even before that, echoed by their spouses, but every year, many of them returned. Those who completed as a team of at least three received a certificate each with individual names and the time and the team number and many have displayed their certificates proudly in their offices or homes.
I was a trailwalker. The first time I did it was with a bunch of Rotarians and we called ourselves “The Rotarians” which was slightly less imaginative than the Rotarians of Kowloon North. Our team was very serious about the project. We registered very early and our official team number was 4. Many teams thought that we were veterans or very serious walkers. Actually, I was a serious smoker before I started training for the event, smoking between two to three packets a day. It soon became rather obvious that I could enhance the prospect of our team returning as a team if I quit smoking, and so I did.
I have stored up many stories, images and personal reflection related to the Trail and Trailwalker, some of which would last me a long time and the mention of which had affected others and moved younger people to becoming a trailwalker. Trailwalker is not about physical strength or age. It is about commitment. It has a lot to do with teamwork, team building, and learning about each other, including the strengths and weaknesses. It is also about priorities and prioritizing. It can tell one in the face at the critical time what are important and what are not.
On the charity side, the Trailwalker Charitable Trust is a registered charity and you can find out more about the Trust and its record of charity work from a number of websites. Go to the District Website and click “The Rotary Wheelers” then “trailwalker” and “Oxfam Hong Kong.” Very briefly, Oxfam Hong Kong is the principal beneficiary charity, but many local and overseas charities, including many small ones, have benefited from the proceeds.
Back to “The Rotary Wheelers” their official team number is 410. There will be 450 teams running this year. The four Rotarians are David Lindsay, Gilbert Collins, Howard Davis and Bill Benter. David is the Team Leader and they plan to finish between 26 to 30 hours.
As the Rotary Wheelers have said, their team is probably the only team this year comprising solely and entirely of Rotarians. I think Rotary Clubs and Rotarians in the District can take the opportunity to gain positive public relations and to enhance Rotary’s image in the District. Rotarians and Clubs can do so by helping the Team raise funds. For example, each club can make a special appeal during the next club meeting and contribute the red box collection of the week towards the team. If each member contributes $100, we could easily raise more than $150,000 towards very good causes. It would also show the community that Rotary clubs care about each other and each other’s projects.
Trailwalker 2001 starts on Friday, 9 November and finishes on Sunday, 11 November. However, your pledges and contributions can come in any time or after the date. Send a message of support to The Rotary Wheelers and indicate that your club will support their endeavour in spirit and in substance. David Lindsay has suggested that you can send him the pledges and the collections to him direct
Vigers Hong Kong Ltd
21/F Standard Chartered Bank Building
4-4A Des Voeux Road
He would then send one cheque to The Trailwalker Charitable Trust with a list of names. My experience has been that the Trust will issue individual receipts for any donation over $100 from any individual or institution. Do it. Do it now. You would feel good abut it, I promise.
Talk to you again next week.