“The Falmouth Walk is not a race. Everyone who finishes wins.” So said Falmouth Walk president Tom Walrath in explaining what’s at the core of this nearly three-decades-old tradition of giving back.
Each year, the Falmouth Walk attracts hundreds of walkers on a 3.2-mile trek in downtown Falmouth that raises more than $35,000 that is donated directly to 13 local charities. It’s a pure expression of love from Falmouth for Falmouth. Many local businesses join in to support the effort, sponsoring a large community cookout on the lawn at St. Barnabas Church after the walk, making this a true community event. From the Falmouth Road Race to Smitty’s Ice Cream to the Quarterdeck Restaurant, the support for this event from Falmouth’s business community enables the fun to continue long after the last walker has finished. Silent and live auction items make the event even more fun.
This is Tom’s first year as president, and he’s presiding over an organization that continues to grow, continues to give, and this year will honor one of its founders with an appropriate recognition and memorial just steps from the spot where the walk was founded.
As I noted in a column on the walk last year, “On a steamy August day in 1991, Eddie, who was the most veteran bartender at the Bull & Finch Pub, known to millions of fans around the world as ‘Cheers,’ picked up his pal Tommy, who was finishing up his shift as a provider of the creature at Boston’s famed Eliot Lounge, and headed, as was their tradition, to the Cape for the Falmouth Road Race. That race, which had already grown from Tommy’s 2 AM brainstorm at the Brothers Four bar in Falmouth Heights to a world-class event, needed a spinoff to raise money for charity, the dynamic duo of putting the ‘fun’ in fundraising opined to one another.
“That year, the Babe Ruth world series was in town and needed a financial boost. Thus, the Falmouth Walk was born. Today, thousands of walkers and hundreds of thousands of dollars raised for charity later, the walk continues, and the dynamic duo is still at its core telling stories, sharing smiles, and, of course, raising money to help others in need.”
Since last year’s walk, though, a member of that dynamic duo has left us. In January, Falmouth Road Race and Falmouth Walk co-founder and true Falmouth legend Tommy Leonard died at 85. One of the many legacies he left—one of the many enduring and indelible marks he left on the soul of our community—is the Falmouth Walk.
To honor Tommy’s contribution to the walk and to the world, the Falmouth Walk board of directors petitioned the board of selectmen recently to name the crosswalk from Town Hall Square to the Quarterdeck Restaurant the “Tommy Leonard Walkway” as an enduring example of that incredible legacy.
When Tommy, co-founder Eddie Doyle and I met last year to talk about the Falmouth Walk, in his trademark ebullient and positive tone with a smile appearing from a corner of his pint glass, Tommy explained that if Norman Rockwell were alive, he’d paint a painting of the walk with one common denominator: everyone would be smiling and every eye would be twinkling. To be in the presence of Tommy and Eddie is to have a smile on your face and a twinkle in your eye. “For the Falmouth Walk, 600 people will be smiling and twinkling,” he said. Actually, last year’s walk exceeded the highest number of walkers, and this year’s numbers are expected to eclipse even that summit of support.
And Eddie Doyle’s tireless and loving support of the walk continues as well. As I noted last year, as a bartender by trade, Eddie considers himself a “spiritsual” (Yes, spirits-ual is the correct spelling) adviser to many, particularly his old pal Tommy. Their friendship had endured through decades of time and light years of changes, and they continued to be bound by their simple but incredible dedication to others. “We are always inspired to do more,” Eddie noted to me in our visit last year, and I know his dedication to a simple rule of life to help others continues, even without his sidekick and best friend, perhaps even more so as a tribute to their collective lifetimes of service to others.
Eddie will be at the Walk on August 17 to carry on the tradition, and walkers are still welcomed. You can still sign up at: www.falmouthwalk.org and join in the tradition yourself.
The Falmouth Walk website notes that, “The Falmouth Walk is now part of the town’s summer landscape. Neither rain or steam heat prevented over 650 folks from stepping off for a good cause over the past few years. The entire event, including the Friday Night Registration, the Walk and the Picnic, officially qualifies as an Annual Family Tradition…just like a Smitty’s Ice Cream Cone on a hot summer’s day,” and this family tradition raises money so that other organizations can reach out—just like Tommy and Eddie always have—in a selfless expression of love and support for others. Tommy was right—that’s a true Rockwellian image.