BY TRAIN, Michigan (WJMN) – Three years ago, Rebecca Bartelme of Local 3 had the privilege of visiting a site at Au Train that would house a retreat center for young adult cancer survivors. A year later, she caught up with True North Treks at the WALDEN Institute when they became fully operational. Most recently, she stopped to see how the effort has been going since taking off in the Upper Peninsula.
“Everything was in the works, then COVID came along and COVID really unplugged, turned off the lights all season that year, we had to cancel all of our hikes,” said David Victorson, executive director of True North Treks. “The ones we do in the west as well as the ones here in the UP One of the ways that WALDEN, the WALDEN Institute has been really helpful is that it has enabled us to have what we call bubble experiments where we asked survivors to bring groups of their caregivers groups of their family members to stay here in their own COVID bubble. ”
Recently, the WALDEN Institute was able to welcome cancer survivors for regular hikes to help them connect with the healing space found in nature. It also gives this non-profit organization a chance to grow and connect in the community.
“It’s really heartwarming to see people come out of the woods. to work with us in different ways, ”said Victorson. “One thing is the bus we just got. The shuttle we just received from ALTRAN. I don’t even know where it started, but all of a sudden we were chatting with them about getting one of their shuttles that they were going to take out of service and our intention to take our attendees to Pictured. Rocks or pick them up at the airport. It just changed the game for us and saved us thousands of dollars. “
“The MDOT and the FTA allow us to reallocate the buses,” said Jennifer Hey, Executive Director of ALTRAN. “Normally we go online and auction them off, but we’re allowed to donate to other nonprofits. For her and me personally, it kind of struck a chord. We both had siblings who died of childhood leukemia.
“It was the first time I heard that, it was when they were answering you and it takes it to a whole new level for me,” said Victorson. “To know that they both lost their siblings when they were younger to childhood cancer. Unfortunately, everyone has a connection with cancer in one way or another and many stories are sad, but there are also some stories that are inspiring and there can be a lot of growth and resilience that people experience when they do. know someone who has cancer and they are still alive. They are still breathing, still doing those things that give their life meaning and purpose.
This is just one of the many partnerships that have formed.
“Upper watershed [Partnership] right in Marquette they are going to help us build a trail system on our 127 acres so that we can actually start using more of the land on our property and be able to do day hikes and even camping on our own property like that, ”Victorson said. “We have had very good partnerships with Northern Michigan University. First, over the past summer we worked with their indoor farming program and we had two interns that we paid to come and help us start our small farm. It’s wonderful where we have participants picking cucumbers, green beans and lettuce last weekend that we were able to grow in the last season and now they can eat and learn more about the importance of the place where your whole foods really kind of reconnect with where their food comes from. Another group at NMU is their construction management program. We are currently working with some of the faculty and with 15 senior construction management students and they are helping us build different… we have a lot of construction needs here. Let it be a new hangar. They actually help us build a new group sauna.
“And also with MSU, we partnered with them and we created maple syrup,” said Kyle Zuidema, facilities manager, True North Treks. “We hacked 101 trees and with them we can show them how to do it. regarding the tapping and operation of our system regarding the main lines and the side lines and all the advantages of syrup.
Anastasia DeLeo and Elisa Salazar are two Chicago-area cancer survivors who have never been to UP before going on a hike and got to experience all of these different things.
“I was diagnosed with endocervical adenocarcinoma which is cancer of the cervix in 2018,” Salazar said. “So coming over three years and so I think it doesn’t matter where you are in your whole journey. You know you are sort of going through different and different emotions, experiences, and feelings. So anyway, I really felt like I had to do this for cancer, connection, and nature all at the same time.
“I had chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, and radiation therapy in 2015,” DeLeo said. “And…. It was all about survival. It was about getting me to the next doctor’s visit. To take me to the next step in the plan my doctors gave me, let’s move on. had no treatment.
Anastasia wasn’t really able to process until she made her first adventure with True North Treks in the west.
“It was probably the best time of my life,” DeLeo said. “This week changed my life and made me realize how much I really need treatment and time away from the chaos of life and that there is no peace like Utah and Michigan . These places contain so much peace, such tranquility, such silence that you will not find anywhere else.
This is what brought Anastasia to her second trek, this time to the WALDEN Institute where she forged lasting relationships with others who understand what the other is going through as with Elisa.
“Yeah, I survived and I’m very, very lucky,” DeLeo said. “But I’ve been through a lot more than the 34-year-old average. And many of those people who go on these hikes have been through more than anyone their age. “
“I think that’s a very common thing that we all talk about, people kind of think you’re healed, you’re done, and they’re sick of hearing about… you know we feel all extremely lucky to be here at the same time, you know we still face a unique set of challenges that most people I guess don’t have at our age, “said Salazar.” I was talking about ‘hysterectomies the other day and my friend was like, oh yeah my mom had one she was fine and I’m like, yeah and how old is your mom? I’m glad she’s okay but you know it’s not It’s not really like a thing. From Stasia’s point of view, it’s really good that this connection is so important.
Both Elisa and Anastasia are part of the story that the WALDEN Institute hopes to continue for young cancer survivors for many years to come.
“For Yoopers, we all know the UP is a beautiful place,” Zuidema said. “When I walk through our door, no matter how bad a day I’m having, I walk down the door and it’s a big sigh of relief that I’m here. My hope for the future is that this will continue long after I have left. I mean there is a lot that can happen here in regards to the facility and she can grow and she will grow and my goal is to have her like I say way beyond after I leave and just to continue riding with it.
For more information on True North Treks and the WALDEN Institute, click on here.