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Local Radio Host Walks, Walks, Walks
His Talk for Relay For Life
In the movie “Caddy Shack,” Carl Spackler, the groundskeeper played by Bill Murray, is caddying for Bishop Fred Pickering when the wind and rain turns torrential.
“What do you think, fella?” the Bishop asks.
“I’d keep playing,” replies Spackler. “I don’t think the heavy stuff’s gonna come down for quite awhile.”
This, in a nutshell, describes Tom Spence’s experience at the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life of Ventura at Buena High School last weekend.
As the winds forced most participants to seek shelter, and eventually pack up and leave early, Spence’s reaction was: I don’t think the heavy stuff’s here yet so I’ll just keep on walking.
Spence, a Ventura County radio personality for more than three decades and currently host of The KVTA Morning Show, has participated in numerous Relays For Life. This year he stepped up his game.
“I decided I’d walk the entire time,” says Spence, who made his goal public: Walk 53 miles – two marathons – during the 24 hours from the Relay’s opening ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday to its closing celebration Sunday morning.
After arriving more than an hour late straight from work, Spence walked a solid 12 miles in the first four hours before taking a 30-minute break.
The next four hours, however, saw his pace slow down as the winds picked up.
“I thought I was sunk at Mile 22,” Spence confides. “The cold wind was breaking me down. It was awful. I felt like I had the flu. I knew I had no chance for 53 miles.”
His hopes gone with the wind, Spence sought refuge in a friend’s RV.
“I was a new person after the half-hour break,” Spence recalls. “I was rejuvenated.”
It was more than the rest that did him good – it was good company rallying to his side. Friends, neighbors and even about 40 of his loyal listeners braved the elements to keep him company.
“I was stunned by the response, by such kindness,” Spence says. “They really lifted my spirits.”
Misery loves company. As the winds grew even stronger, so did Spence.
“Suddenly, I had a spring in my step,” he says.
A middle-of-the-night cup of Cuban coffee from a friend gave Spence’s stride another needed jolt.
As dawn arrived, so did the rain. What started out as a village of 60 tents for the various Relay teams was now a ghost town. Drenched but undaunted, Spence did the math and smiled into the teeth of the storm: “I realized I might do it after all.”
Do it he did, finishing GPS-certified Mile 53 with 15 minutes to spare.
By walking his talk, Spence raised more than $2,000 for the American Cancer Society; honored his wife, Colleen, who is a cancer survivor; and also beat down his body into agony.
“Monday morning at work,” Spence, 58, says, “I parked my car and – this is the truth – I crawled into the station on my hands and knees. I was bloody sore. I’ve done a lot of stuff – mud runs, two marathons – and nothing compares to this. I was in pain from toes to hips.”
Mark Twain said, “Golf is a good walk spoiled.” One might expect Spence felt this year’s Relay For Life was a long walk spoiled, but you would be wrong.
“I think this was my most memorable Relay For Life because it had to be endured,” Spence says.
It was also memorable for a different reason, a better reason, about 100 reasons.
“The real highlight was the people,” Spence says, warmly. “I can’t name everybody’s name who helped me and walked with me. People who you count on are wonderful – but also people you didn’t imagine, which is really awesome.”
The outpouring was well deserved because Tom Spence is a community treasure who has never met a charity event he would not assist.
“My motivation for helping is to make up for what I didn’t do up to when I was 21,” he explains. “I was a little slow before I started getting involved.”
Now he is unstoppable.
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Woody Woodburn writes a weekly column for The Ventura County Star and can be contacted at WoodyWriter@gmail.com.
Check out my memoir WOODEN & ME: Life Lessons from My Two-Decade Friendship with the Legendary Coach and Humanitarian to Help “Make Each Day Your Masterpiece” and my essay collection “Strawberries in Wintertime: Essays on Life, Love, and Laughter” …
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