Turning Tragedy Into Motivation To Make a Difference

2012 MM Journey recipient, Elaine, enjoying a surprise visit from Wally The Green Monster!

It is the news nobody wants to hear. The realization that one you hold so dear is facing the end of their days.

Life-threatening illnesses have a huge impact on those afflicted and the loved ones around them. Caleb Ginsberg of Amherst, New Hampshire experienced this for himself five years ago when, not just one, but three of those closest to him were diagnosed with advanced stages of cancer in the same week.

His grandmother. His aunt. A good friend who he considered family. All of them facing the reality that their lives will be cut short.

The overwhelming feelings of sadness and fear could have broken Ginsberg and his family, but something much different happened. A realization that these final moments were not to be a downward fall into despair, but a forward journey to be cherished.

In 2008, Ginsberg and his family came together to help other families come to the same realization with the founding of the Motivating Miles Foundation.

Beginning Their “Journeys”

Ginsberg and his mother Sarah Ramsey started Motivating Miles to focus on an aspect of illness that is often ignored during traditional medical care: the mental and emotional well-being of the patient and family.

“This really changes everyones’ world and we wanted to figure out something we can do to create positive experiences and help in this process of acceptance,” said Ginsberg. “It is such a ripple effect that turns everyones’ world upside down.”

The inspiration came from a 60 Minutes special on  “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch, where a professor facing terminal illness explained that facing death is a time to truly live.

With this in mind the focus of their foundation had become clear. First to provide a series of positive, uplifting experiences to the patients and loved ones so they can truly live in the moment. Then document the experience so the family can cherish these one-of-a-kind memories.

Motivating Miles has so far guided sixteen families on “Journeys” that capture the legacies of their lives in ways as unique as the people themselves. The foundation covers all bases for anything  that brings a family together for a positive experience.

A family in Maine had two sons with Huntington’s Disease, a terrible neurological disease that cripples the body, and wanted them to spend their last years with family. There was no room in the house, so Motivating Miles raised money to have the basement renovated to bring this family together.

A young girl in Milford was able to take a road trip to Utah with her family to spend time with her grandparents before she passed away. Motivating Miles paid for the RV rental, provided toys and games for the trip and helped with other expenses.

Read more Motivating Miles Journeys

Moving Forward

Dream trips, week-long cruises and other amazing efforts are supported by Motivating Miles and the many donors and volunteers who help make them possible.

So much positive and loving energy born of a period of tragedy overcome through strength.

His grandmother is still with him, but Ginsberg’s aunt and friend have since passed away from their disease. Yet he moves forward (literally) to continue the efforts of Motivating Miles through fundraising.

He and other volunteers have covered over 2,000 miles through marathons and other athletic challenges to raise money for these wonderful Journeys. This is on top of other fundraising efforts through events and online donations.

Ginsberg said he feels fortunate to have so many volunteers dedicate time and money in this grassroots effort to bring joy to the lives of others. The foundation has taken off to a place that not even he expected.

And the journey is also personal. Each family he reaches out to has given him a renewed outlook on  life.

“Death is an important to talk about, but not many people are comfortable addressing it. I have developed the ability to talk to other families about it, and have been amazed at how relieved the family members are to have somebody come in and not hide from it. Families are used to it being the elephant in the room.”

He is happy to see families lifted from “doom and gloom” and transition into a feeling of positivity. They see that they don’t have to run from the disease, and this lesson has not been lost on Ginsberg.

“We are going to help, we are here and we are not going to run away,” he said. “That was something i couldn’t say five years ago because I would have been the person running in the other direction.”

Jump In

Stories are shared on the Motivating Miles website and Facebook page during the start of each Journey. Based on the description of their current Journeys, you may know someone who might be able to give a hand and enhance the experience for the families.

Donations are always accepted and can be made through their website.

Motivating Miles is a collaborative effort of volunteers who help organize, fundraise and find resources to craft each journey. Anyone looking to join is encouraged to contact the foundation to explore volunteer opportunities.

The Journey Review Committee includes Ashley Blake, Emily Ginsberg, Annie Elliott, Elizabeth Waldron, Kristine Kennedy, Marc Smith Lucienne Foulks, Andrea Crocker and Colin Desnoyers. Notable fundraisers include Tiffany and Adam Jacobs.

For more information please contact  Caleb Ginsberg at cginsberg@motivatingmiles.org(603.721.9764) or Sarah Ramsay sramsay@motivatingmiles.org (603.721.9767).

South End Patch