A Walk across America for Cancer
“I’ll start in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, and head west to my final destination of Venice Beach in Los Angeles,” Schrack said. “Many people say I’m a little crazy for willingly walking 2,800 miles, but it stems from a passion for me.”
In 2006 at age 38, Schrack’s wife Shiela was diagnosed with colon cancer. Although Sheila is now cancer-free, four surgeries and a year of chemotherapy cause lasting effects. Life is never the same after diagnosis, and that is why prevention is key. The cancer sparked a passion for both Schrack and his family to raise awareness for this disease.
That passion took form in 2007, when Schrack started the Polar Plunge. Every year since then, his friends and family and even complete strangers have joined him on New Year’s Day to plunge into freezing water – all to raise money and awareness for colon cancer. In 2012, Schrack’s wife received a scholarship to attend Call on Congress with Fight Colorectal Cancer. They have attended every year since then to speak with their representatives about funding and awareness. As part of their efforts, Schrack and Sheila are proposing to make a colonoscopy part of the Department of Transportation’s physical at age 40 instead of 50.
In 2015, Schrack and his wife began participating in Climb for a Cure. This group of cancer survivors and supporters climb mountains in Colorado to raise awareness and money. So far, Schrack and his family have raised over $100,000, but they aren’t stopping anytime soon.
Seven years ago, Schrack decided he wanted to walk across the country. He approached his service center manager at the time and asked if he could get time off for the walk. His manager responded with a funny look and said, “If you’re crazy enough to try it, sure, I’ll make sure you get the time off.” That was just the answer Schrack needed.
“As the walk approaches, I think of all those I knew who have been taken away too soon, and feel motivated to honor them,” Schrack said.
According to the National Cancer Institute, colon cancer is the second leading cancer-related killer in the United States, but is preventable and curable if detected at an early stage. While Schrack looks to raise money for research, his main goal is to bring awareness to the disease and encourage everyone to get their regular screenings.
“This is life or death,” Schrack said. “Getting a colonoscopy can literally save your life. There is no reason not to get one.”
As he was planning his walk, another idea struck him. Schrack served as a squad leader in Iraq in 2004 and 2005. After returning from war, a young man on his squad took his own life. According to the United States Department of Veteran Affairs, each day, an estimated 22 veterans commit suicide, so Schrack’s goal is to walk 22 miles a day. One mile for each veteran. At this rate, Schrack estimates that his whole walk will take 130 days.
“It’s not about me,” Schrack said. “It’s about raising awareness for veteran suicide and colon cancer. It makes a difference. It saves lives.”
It really isn’t about Schrack.
“Schrack downplays the journey of what he has done,” Matt Ducher, service center manager – Cleveland, formerly Youngstown, Ohio, said. “He is one of the most humble people I know. One day I came to work, and some team members were whispering about how Schrack had been on national TV raising awareness for colon cancer. Not only did he not tell anyone about this, but he took his vacation time to do it.”
Schrack’s team members and management are in full support of his efforts and always have been.
“Since day one of my wife’s diagnosis, the support from management and fellow team members has been overwhelming,” Schrack said. “From allowing me to take time off, to team members and the company supporting fundraising efforts, the FedEx Living PSP culture has been evident.”