A Long Walk to Raise Awareness
Tremont, IL man walks from Rockford to Peoria to raise money for OSF HealthCare Children's Hospital of Illinois
Tom Brewer, 72, has walked some of the most challenging trails in the world, including the 2,194 miles of the Appalachian Trail in the United States and the 45 mile Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in the Andes Mountains in Peru. But it's hikes like the 135 mile journey from Rockford to Peoria, Illinois that he completed April 29 that carry a special place in his heart.
"Every year I look for a good physical challenge and this meets that. The reason I'm really doing it is those kids up there. I've condensed it down to about two sentences - our babies are our future and they're a blessing from God and it's our job to keep them healthy. That's it, that's why I do it," said Brewer at the end of his trek.
Brewer began his 9 day walk on April 21 from the OSF Children’s Hospital of Illinois Congenital Heart Clinic in Rockford. Family and supporters joined him for the last mile on a warm and sunny Sunday, walking around the OSF Children's Hospital campus in Peoria.
The purpose of the walk was to raise funds and awareness for OSF Children’s Hospital. Brewer set a goal of $5,000, but easily topped that.
Members of his family, including his wife, four children and numerous grandchildren, joined him for various stretches of the journey. Along the way he also met people who shared stories and food, including the 7-year-old girl who gave him freshly made cookies and a donation of the money she had been saving for a special cause.
There was one mother and baby he met at a rest area just north of Chillicothe, IL that left him choked up recalling the encounter. The mom said she wanted to thank Tom for what he was doing. Tom says stories like hers are the reason why he made the journey.
"Her daughter was born in November and had been in and out of Children's Hospital ever since but she was there and I got to hold her," said Tom, choking up. "I have a family reputation of being the baby whisperer, I can hum a baby to sleep in no time flat and I was doing that. That encounter made the whole thing worthwhile."
OSF HealthCare Children's Hospital is the third largest pediatric hospital in Illinois and the only full service tertiary hospital for kids downstate. With 136 beds and more than 141 pediatric subspecialists, OSF Children's Hospital cares for more children in Illinois than any hospital outside of Chicago. Formally established as a pediatric hospital within the walls of OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center in 1990, OSF Children's Hospital has over 7,000 admissions, 2,500 newborn deliveries, and 18,000 emergency department visits each year.