As a letter carrier for 27 years, Donlon was already accustomed to walking. At 73, he has stayed in shape by working out on a treadmill at the Beverly YMCA.
The 10.5-mile Good Friday Walk route is almost the same distance as his old mail route in North Beverly. One of his customers on the route was Ray Battistelli, the late founder of the Good Friday Walk.
“I loved my route,” Donlon said. “It was all walk, no driving. You get to know all the people. That’s what you miss.”
As Donlon made his way down Cabot Street past Balch Playground, a mailman driving a mail truck beeped and waved to him.
Donlon said one of his favorite years doing the walk came when his daughters, who were in first and third grade at the time, asked if they could do it with him. Donlon figured his girls would last for part of the walk before he’d have to call his wife, who helps out registering walkers back at St. John’s School, and have her pick them up. Instead, they walked the whole thing.
Donlon estimates that he has raised more than $30,000 over the years through pledges for the Good Friday Walk. One donor, who prefers to remain anonymous, gives $1,000 every year.
Alan Battistelli, Ray’s son and the president of the Good Friday Walk, said Donlon’s dedication is inspiring.
“He’s one of these guys who believes in what we’re doing,” Battistelli said. “He believes in the whole idea of helping our neighbors.”
Donlon finished his walk yesterday in a little over three hours, faster than usual because there were no other walkers to chat with. The route goes all the way down to Beverly Farms and back, but his only break came toward the end, when he stopped at Cityside Diner on Cabot Street.