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Splitting the Mitt for Less Cancer

My first and only trip to the nation’s capital was because of cancer.

16 years later, I went back because of cancer.

It was October 2002. My dad, Tom Schmidt, an elementary school physical education teacher, was dying of cancer. We came to the National Institute of Health for a miracle but the treatment didn’t work. He died two months later on Christmas day. My dad was 48 years old.

This past February, I returned to DC and this time, I was the dad. My 11 year old son, Jameson, joined me at Less Cancer’s National Cancer Prevention Day. I presented the youth-focused, active transportation-centered, neighborhood-based work that the small nonprofit I founded with my wife is doing.

I made some new memories in Washington. Some better memories.

Less Cancer

I think about cancer a lot these days. More accurately, I think a lot about how not to get cancer. About how to help those I love not get cancer.

I try my best to practice evidence-based preventionSun safetyEating well. Reducing exposure to harmful toxins. Having strong relationships with my family, friends, and community. And being physically active.

12 years ago, I gave up my driver’s license. I didn’t need it. Walking and biking to the places I needed to go is easy, fun, and convenient. And it makes me happy. I walk or ride my bicycle everywhere now — to work, the library, store, park, beach and to our school with my sons.

It was at their neighborhood school that I started to notice things: an insane car line each and every day, very few kids walking and even less riding their bikes. These things bothered me.

I believe that small changes downstream can lead to big changes in the future.

I believe that kids learning to move and being physically active as part of ordinary life — like going to school or the park or the library or the beach — and then inspiring their parents, teachers, principals, neighbors to do the same is a powerful means to sustainable community healthfulness.

I believe that independent, happy, confident, ready to learn young people are empowered to be guardians of their health, develop lifelong habits to move more and sit less and be leaders in their neighborhood.

How can we help prevent obesity, cancer and other chronic diseases? “Exercise”, organized sports and recreation are great but I believe, as a physical therapist, that embedding walking and biking into our daily routine is a significant part of the answer.

We know that walkable/bikeable towns and cities designed around people and place increase physical activity for people of all ages.

We know that kids who learn to move young (real young!) — like in preschool — are more likely to move as adults.

We also know that adults who move more are healthier, happier, and better connected with their community.

That was the vision for Norte, an organization that administers Safe Routes To School programs to empower kids to actively get themselves to school and advocates for best practice walk/bike infrastructure in neighborhoods to benefit people of all ages and abilities here in Traverse City, Michigan. Every day we’re helping to build strong communities by empowering the young and young at heart to be happy, active, healthy for life — and for less cancer.

I think my dad would be proud that.

Split the Mitt

This weekend I’m going to ride my bicycle 238 miles over two days from Flint, Michigan to my adopted hometown of Traverse City with Less Cancer for less cancer.

Since 2004, Less Cancer has been working under the guidance of evidenced-based science to end preventable cancers. Their fundraising ride, Split the Mitt, was established for cyclists to raise funds and awareness in support of Less Cancer’s efforts to end preventable cancers.

Please pledge $10 or $100 to my Split the Mitt campaign to help Less Cancer continue their important work.

Donate HERE and thank you.