Skip to main content

See also:

Crossing Maryland for Cool Kids Campaign

When I was 14 years old, I almost lost one of my legs. I was playing baseball, running track, growing up… and my adolescence came to screaming halt. After a few weeks of intense pain and trouble extending my leg after bending it, I was diagnosed with bone cancer in my left tibia. Bless my parents for searching for any other diagnosis than radiation, chemo, and possible amputation. We found one, but it was just as grim. A staph infection in my bone. Had that reached my bone marrow, then lights out. So I was put in the hospital the next day and had a quarter size hole of my upper tibia scoped out and grafted.

In gear with my trek poles that are a huge help!
In gear with my trek poles that are a huge help!
Just In Weather, LLC
My 320 mile trek across Maryland to raise awareness and funds for Cool Kids Campaign
Justin Berk, Lauren Edwards

A week later, I was still in the hospital and a silly kid trying to walk. That led to swelling, fever spike, and one doctor suggesting he was correct and I did had cancer all along. The delay increased the odds of losing my leg. Hearing that alone, without my parents around… kind of scary. But the actual surgeon was correct, however during my IV treatment, I developed an allergy to penicillin. So I was put on a relatively new drug called Keflex (for the medical pros reading). I was told if it was just a few years earlier, this drug was not around, and yes, I would have lost my leg.

A month and a half in the hospital, more time at home on IV, I lost part of my summer and was isolated. If there was an organization like Cool Kids Campaign, I would have benefited. That is why I became involved four years ago with my Wind for Change Program.

Come From Behind Track Victory: My best video of all time

I eventually recovered, and a few years later was where I expected to be. This video of a track meet is the only one my parents ever recorded. Thank you! This was the moment captured in time that changed everything three years after my illness. It was the finals of the 4x200 meter relay at the southeast NY regional invitational. I was the anchor (last) leg, and getting the baton 10-15 yards behind the leader, I had tunnel vision. For the first time I felt 100% healthy, and I was able to come from behind and beat him at the finish line. Victory, as good as it feels, is even better after overcoming obstacles.

That video is how I end my Wind for Change (it never gets old for me) and pump up the kids who participate in my wind blowing contest. It is how I encourage kids to keep their courage even when something scary happens. Focus on your strengths and believe in yourself. In four years, we have raised $77,000 for the Cool Kids Campaign.

The numbers

I was 14 years old then, today I am 41. It is a reflection of digits and time for my own reflection. Considering it is 20’14’ and I was on TV in Baltimore for 14 years, it just fit. Plus it has been 27 years since this happened. 2 x 7 = 14.

As weird as this might seem already, I’ve actually got a few more I will share over the course of this week.

The opportunity

I have been given a blessing in social media. I left TV over 2 years ago, but I reach more people today than ever. What good is having 160,000+ followers on Facebook, 17,000+ on Twitter, and reach over a million a week if you don’t do any good with it? That is what I want to prove.

For some reason I have been able to transcend cyberspace and connect with a lot of people. It has to be more than great photos, timely weather updates, a blockbuster winter storm grade report, or whatever. Some piece of me has reached others on many levels. Will sharing a bit more while doing something outside of myself be the validation of all of this? Before I embark on anything else in my business and life, I need to see that.

The Trek

August 17-23, 2014

Starting from the summit of Maryland's only ski area.. Wisp Resort then ending at the Inlet in Ocean City. I picked Maryland’s two largest playgrounds for the kids who want to be kids again and just play.

Hiking and biking combination everyday, to cross the state of Maryland from west to east in 7 days. Two legs each day, pun fully intended. That’s the plan. I’ve moved from sprinting to long distance running in my adulthood, but the hike is something more people can relate to. For the haters and trolls who wanted me to take a hike, here ya go. I am!

The biking portion represents the fun part childhood, plus it also relieves tension on my legs using different muscles and shortens the time moving each day.

Shawn Madden Day

You may have known about my friend and Gold's Gym owner Shawn Madden who died suddenly two weeks ago at the age of 45. It was genetic heart disease and he left a big void behind. He was supposed to be on this journey with me every day as he and his wife were big sponsors and supports. The fourth day, Wednesday August 20th will be in his honor. I will ride from Frederick to his gym in Eldersburg where we will have a gathering to honor him. His wife Heather needs to rest, so while she promised to ride, her spot will be done by my friend and Gold's trainer Susan Krieger. We will meet Heather and many more at the gym Wednesday afternoon.

The Plan

  • Each day will start with a 27 mile hike at a fast pace. I average a little more than 4 miles per hour. 27 is for the years since I was sick.
  • The bike part will be about 14 miles, for the age I was when I was sick.

I am using two legs each day to be able to tell two stories. Each morning will be to honor one of our Cool Kids. Tell you their story and let them know that many people care and perhaps one day they can be all grown up and say they ‘were’ sick, but no longer. The bike portion will be for people that I think need to have their story told. Many who have had a profound impact on my life.

I have assembled a team and have support from some great people and experts in fitness. I am proud to have the backing of Gold’s Gym and Charm City Run to provide materials, advice, and guidance along the way. The people at Zest are building me a new web page. As soon as it is ready, it will be instrumental in helping with the technical side including a live GPS tracking page to see if I am really doing this. Plus, if you can, I’d love to see you along the way.

The new page will also allow me to give proper credit to my sponsors:

Wilkins Automotive (and the wonderful Wilkins family with me for the start)

Gold's Gym Eldersburg/Shrewsbury

Charm City Run

Shades of the Bay

Zest Social Media Solutions

I will likely post on this Examiner page one more time and include a direct GPS tracking link for the first day.

If you drive by or stop to say high, we can take a pic and post it using the hashtag #cmd4ckc to help document this once in a lifetime journey. Post that on social media or tag @justinweather.

Here are my account pages: Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook

and hopefully we can collect a gallery of the entire journey.

I’ve got some cool surprises along the way as well so you hopefully stick with me all the way through the end.

The Goal

In addition to just finishing, yes I would like to raise money for the Cool Kids Campaign. In addition to the great services for kids and their family’s, we just purchased a beach house in South Carolina for the family retreats. Your donations will help keep this operational and enhance some good times and needed mental health for them.

Fundraiser

Optimistically I wish we could raise $1 for every person on my FB page. That would be $162,00+, but that might not happen. Realistically, I set the mark at $14,000. That number again for my age when I was sick. Note that most kids we work with are much younger, and we want them to go well past 14 (and 41).

Help support now on our Razoo page

Personal Journey

I feel I need to do this! Perhaps it is my mid life crisis, but I can imagine worse things. I am far from perfect, but have gained perspective to grab all flaws and obstacles, combine them with all that is good surrounding me, and do something positive. I hope my actions will resonate with you, inspire you, and encourage the kids to look past their disease to a time when they can attain their dreams.

I am also doing this for my two boys. Thankfully they are both very healthy at ages 4 and 8 and I could not imagine one of them being ill. I want them to see their dad complete something physically grueling to push past their fears and beyond what they think may be their limits. It is also for my parents. They’ve seen my best and worst (which wasn’t pretty) and still believe in me. This entire week is cosmic judo. Redirecting all forces to something so good and beyond myself that is has to succeed.

I hope you join me along the way. I am so glad to have this opportunity of a large audience and physical fitness. I will need all support along the way, after the adrenaline fades and I proceed on fumes.