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  • Amber Howland

Empire State of Mind

(Turns up Jay-Z and Alicia Keys “Empire State of Mind”)

As you read this, I have ran over 550 miles in 98 days. As I continue to run the virtual streets of Long Island, I reflect on what it took to get me here. On day 1 of this challenge, it was one of the hottest days to date. I had no clue what it would take to get to Long Island. It was so far away both in days and miles. During my runs, I used to think about how unbelievable it was to ever say, “Its day 60, 70 or 80 days of the OneNY Virtual Challenge benefitting the Food Bank of Central New York”. Now here we are at 98 days. 98 days of waking up and hitting the road in various weather conditions. Listening to endless hours of podcasts and Beyoncé playlists. Prioritizing eating, drinking water, sleeping and making sure my Apple watch is charged above anything else. Countless loads of laundry, 4 pairs of New Balance 880s and my trusty fanny pack got me to where I am now, the Sunrise Highway in Long Island.

Every day I think about conversations I had with people as the campaign was kicking off 98 days ago. People were skeptical. The goal was clear but the path to get there was a bit hazy. I remember saying, “I’ll be happy if we raise $400!” Now, we are talking thousands of dollars raised that equal even more thousands of meals to be handed out to the hungry. People had varying levels of faith and support in this endeavor at the start. It was a massive undertaking for one person to embark on with no real track record of ever pulling something like this off. I had no idea what the end result was going to be. I had no clue what a movement it would create and I had NO IDEA the impact it would make on our community.

I think about the people I have met during what could be the most difficult time in a small business owners’ career. Some conversations were hopeful. Some were sad. You want to understand and help in any way you can, but sometimes the odds were too stacked against them. I met creative people who mixed up the small business game and took different approaches. I met people who felt extremely beat down by the continuous changes to the rules and regulations. Every single business owner I met, however, was supportive and appreciative. Everyone, regardless of their business’s situation, wanted to help in any way they could. They donated, they shared posts, they talked to other business owners and got them involved. They provided swag, shirts, hats, masks. They sent me product to promote, they shared my story on their radio show, podcast and even a movie screen! They hung signs, they smiled and knew the purpose. EVERYONE stepped up when they could have easily stepped aside.

As I continue down the Sunrise Highway in Long Island, I think about what is next. What is my calling after the 108 days. I have made so many wonderful connections. I know I will take a couple days to literally put my feet up and take a breather but I know my work is not done at the finish line of this challenge.

I still have 11 days to go and more work to do. Thank you for sticking through this with me and following the journey to 1000K. I can’t wait to share the grand total with you. You all made this campaign an incredible success. It’s amazing what a community can do in tough times. Let’s show the last 11 days what we are made of and what we came together for. Now hit repeat on this Jay-Z song and turn it up as loud as you can. When Alicia comes on, sing with me….

“In New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of There's nothin' you can't do Now you're in New York These streets will make you feel brand new Big lights will inspire you Let's hear it for New York, New York New York”

See you on the road,

Amber

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