Published June 12, 2014
It’s a chance to see the country and become more physically fit while raising money for two worthy causes.
Former UB staff member Patricia Bordas has begun a cross-country walk to raise awareness and money for Northtown Pregnancy Center and Olmsted Center for Sight — two charities that are close to her heart.
Bordas, who worked as a secretary in University Facilities – Finance and Administration until she resigned March 13, began the walk on March 25 in Framingham, Massachusetts, outside of Boston. But after a week she decided the route she had planned to take — along U.S. Route 20, which runs from Boston to Newport, Oregon —was unsafe, with many blind curves, hills and areas with no shoulders.
“I thought, either I’m going to die or I’m going to cause an accident,” Bordas told the UB Reporter during a recent interview. So she returned to Buffalo to regroup and recalculate her route.
She decided to restart the walk in Albany, following the Erie Canalway Trail to Tonawanda and then picking up the Great Lakes Seaway Trail. She will travel the Seaway Trail along the Lake Erie shoreline through New York and Pennsylvania into northern Ohio. She expects to follow bike trails to southern Ohio, where she’ll pick up the American Discovery Trail — the nation’s first coast-to-coast, non-motorized recreation trail —and follow it to the West Coast. She says she’ll walk as far as she can until October, when the cold weather sets in, or until her money runs out.
She is raising money for Northtown Pregnancy Center, she explained, because she had become pregnant at 17 and was fortunate that her family had supported her and her decision to keep her baby. Northtown Pregnancy Center offers help and support to women in similar situations, she said.
Bordas also has a personal connection with Olmsted Center for Sight.
Her daughter, Noelle, was diagnosed with a brain tumor after experiencing severe migraines. After surgery to remove the tumor, which was located near the optic nerve, she was left blind in her right eye. The doctors and staff at Olmsted helped Noelle learn to live with her disability, Bordas said.
“The people at Olmsted were amazing, a total godsend when we needed them most,” she said, noting she decided to raise money for the organization “so that they could continue to give people hope when they needed it most.”
Bordas restarted her walk on April 11 after taking a train to Albany to pick up the Erie Canalway Trail. She made it as far as Medina when the weather turned ugly. Her sister picked her up in Medina and she returned home to wait out what she expected to be a few stormy days before finishing the canalway trail.
But while she was home Noelle became ill and was hospitalized with a serious bacterial infection, and she again interrupted her trip. “I think I was supposed to be here,” Bordas said during an interview in her Cheektowaga home during her recent hiatus.
Now that Noelle has recovered, she has returned to the road.
Bordas was walking from Medina to Lockport when the UB Reporter
contacted her earlier this week.
As she walks along the trail, Bordas pushes her supplies in a jogging stroller with all-terrain tires. She’s already worn out one stroller and a pair of sneakers. Her main sponsor, the Good Feet Store, is supplying her with sneakers and arch supports. Although she carries a tent with her, she’s been spending the night at motels along the way.
She confessed that even when she started walking on the safer canalway trail, the going was tough. “Honestly, when I started I hated it,” she said. The weather was cold, the trees were brown and the trail wound through mostly rural areas. But once she hit the Rochester area, things began to change.
“Things got green overnight,” she said, and small canal towns like Spencerport and Brockport “were absolutely adorable.”
Bordas has learned a lot about herself on the walk so far.
“It’s shown me how much I can push myself,” she said. “I can do this.”
And she’s met lots of interesting people along the way.
“For the first five minutes they look at me like I’m crazy,” she said of these meetings on the road. “But once I talk to them, they see I’ve planned and thought everything through. Everyone’s been very supportive.”
And that goes for her family and friends, including former co-worker Laura Diioia, arguably her most ardent supporter at UB.
“She started talking about this about a year ago,” said Diioia, human resources administrator in University Facilities - Finance and Administration who worked in the same office as Bordas for about four years. “I supported her dream, but thought to myself, ‘Wow. I could never do that!’ I admire her deeply, not only for doing something so extreme to raise money for a good cause, but doing it although she is afraid, has doubts, has to deal with people who don’t understand her faith, and especially because she now has no source of income except donations.
“I’ve told her that even if she does not succeed in making it all the way to the West Coast, she has been an inspiration for people who have told her it was a crazy idea, or to people who may feel drawn to make this world a better place through smaller steps,” she said.
Diioia and her husband donated money to the walk, and persuaded their church to do the same. Diioia also gave Bordas a netbook so she could blog about her walk.
“Maybe the point of her walk is not going to be making it to the West Coast, or raising tons of money for her charities,” Diioia said. “Maybe it’s about teaching people about sacrificing for others, giving everything you have, even though it’s scary, and making the world a better place in the time we’re here.
“I think if her walk makes people think about what they are doing with their time on earth, then she’s accomplished what she has set out to do.”