BEVERLY — The bad news is that for the first time in 33 years, Rich Donlon won’t be doing the Good Friday Walk next week.
The good news? He did it yesterday, a week early.
Donlon, a 73-year-old retired mailman from Beverly, realized recently that he was going to miss next week’s walk because he and his wife will be away on vacation.
When the conflict became apparent, Donlon uttered the phrase that sums up his devotion to the North Shore’s oldest charity walk.
“I could not not walk the Good Friday Walk,” he said.
That’s why Donlon showed up at 9 a.m. yesterday in the parking lot of St. John the Evangelist School, the walk’s traditional starting and ending spot in North Beverly. On walk day, the lot is bustling with the comings of goings of the 500 people who usually take part in the walk.
Yesterday, there was just Donlon. He had no umbrella, despite the threat of rain, and no snacks or water bottle, despite the fact that the usual water and snack stations along the route would not be open.
Then, as he has done for the last 33 years, he started walking, briskly. As he walked, he told the story of how the Good Friday Walk has come to mean so much to him.
Donlon missed the very first walk in 1979. He said he read about it in the newspaper and learned that it raised money to help local people in need pay their rent or heating bills.
“I said, ‘Gee, this is kind of neat,’” he said. “So I said, ‘Maybe next year I could do that.’
“Like anything, the first few years you don’t give anything a lot of thought. But, truly, our family has been very, very fortunate in terms of being that middle-class family that’s had it pretty good. And this is the way to myself I express that gratitude. A lot of folks out there, through no fault of their own, they’re just trying to feed their kids and be warm. And this helps.”