Big Heart, Big Challenge: Riding for Charity

Feb 08

Big Heart, Big Challenge: Riding for Charity

Ten years ago when I was living in Barcelona, Spain, I met Gloria Davies, mother to two of my dearest friends, Greg and Paul and sister Gabriella. Gloria lives in England and she was visiting Greg and his son in Spain when I first met her. Gloria and I took to each other immediately – she’s a vivacious, take charge, fearless, caring, nurturing, insightful, and clever woman…the mother-in-law you always wanted (really). We bonded over shopping, café con leche, and walking around the city for hours.

Throughout the years I’ve seen Gloria when the brothers Davies had something going on, bringing friends and family together (I think the last time I was with Gloria was at a 40th birthday costume party where she was dressed as Morticia). No matter how much time goes by, when I see her, it’s as if it were only yesterday as she takes me into her arms and gives me some of that Spanish-Jewish loving.

About a week ago I heard from Greg who was helping his “mum’ raise money for Marie Curie Cancer Care, an organization that provides quality nursing care at home, completely gratis, to people with cancer and other illnesses. Gloria is participating in a horse ride challenge through the Jordanian Desert into Petra where she will be riding over 5 days nearly 83 miles (133 kilometers). The charity event takes place April 9-17, a week shy of her 76th birthday.

Am I surprised that at this time in her life Gloria is taking on this challenge? Not at all. Am I impressed? Absolutely. She has always taken on challenges (like trekking through Mongolia), and her big heart has roots from her days as a Nursing Sister for 30 years in the community of her hometown in England.

But it’s a big deal; it will take a lot of stamina and endurance. I remember years ago when I participated in the Avon Breast Cancer Walk in Los Angeles, from Santa Barbara to Malibu for three days. It was exhilarating and it was hard (and I was in my 30s!). It takes a lot of stamina and endurance. I know that Gloria has all that, and even more. She has heart…she has first-hand experience in what it means for the families and the sick to have access to nurses who dedicate their time in attending to and taking care of the terminally ill at home.

You go Gloria! I want to give you a personal shout-out from here in Los Angeles. I also hope that what she’s doing can inspire us all to get more involved, take up the challenges outside our immediate world, whether it’s helping a friend who is ill, volunteering at a local charity or food bank, taking part in a race, walk, ride to raise money.

I’d also love to hear other inspirational stories from you all…people you know who are helping to make a difference, who are taking time out of their lives to give.


  1. Kim McGraw /

    I also did the Avon walk with Annie. It was a wonderful way to raise money for breast cancer awareness, and the chance to test myself.

    Over the years I’ve participated in a many events to raise money and awareness for different charities. Toys for Tots, Foster Care, HRC and
    Feeding the homeless at Thanksgiving.

    This is a reminder that I need to get “back on the horse” and help out where I can.

    Thanks for the inspirational story. You go girl!

  2. I think you have captured the essence of Gloria in your extremely well written and entertaining blog – I know that the definining characteristic of Gloria is her energy and zest for life rendering chronology almost irrelevant – It’s proof to all of us if it were needed that if you want to do something in life and believe you can do it then really there are no barriers to doing anything – Yesterday is past and tomorrow we can’t take for granted but today is a gift that we must embrace and do as much as we can with. The fact that Gloria is doing something so challenging and inspiring I believe over 10 days is impressive enough – but to also raise money and awareness for Marie Curie Cancer Care who rely entirely on donations is something for which good karma must truely be deserved. I say this as I share her attitude to life and others and also because I am perhaps a little bit biased as her son.

  3. Gloria seems like a truly amazing woman. You never know where inspiration for helping others might come from. I wrote about my experience 3 years ago for a local paper, but updated it today:

    From adversity, a flowering of hope

    It was a blustery January day in 2002 when my wife’s doctor delivered the startling news, diagnosing her with a rare type of cancer. She would have to begin chemotherapy immediately at Dartmouth-Hitchcock hospital, and thus would begin our family’s roller-coaster ride from hell.

    This wasn’t in our master plan. Sonja and I had been married for fifteen years and had been blessed with good health and a 7-year-old son. Her diagnosis and the months of treatment that followed would create many physical and emotional highs and lows. It took all the strength we could muster to keep our spirits up, while putting on a positive facade for the sake of our son.

    During the worst of times, I left my office in Burlington to clear my head by taking a walk. I stopped by a used music store and spotted an Elisabeth von Trapp CD titled “Wishful Thinking.” On my drive home, I popped the CD in my car stereo and began listening while taking in the majestic view of Mount Mansfield.

    Elisabeth’s magnificent voice and musical arrangement on one particular song caught my attention. I never focus on lyrics, but these jumped out at me. Later, I learned that the song was Elisabeth’s musical adaptation of Psalm 121 from the Bible. Although I had attended church since my youth, I was no biblical scholar and wasn’t familiar with any Psalms. The gist of this one was that God was watching over us and that he wouldn’t let us fall. Listening to this song would be a life-changing event for me, providing much needed hope and strength. For some reason, I now felt certain that things would turn around for us. Indeed, things did turn around over time.

    After Sonja’s treatments ended, my thoughts turned to finding ways to help other families battling cancer. I envisioned organizing a benefit concert where all the overhead would be paid by my employer and co-sponsors, with 100% of proceeds donated to a local cancer organization, and for it to be the best entertainment value that night in our area.

    A friend who is a cancer survivor connected me with two amazing women, Loretta Muss and Dr. Patti O’Brien at the Cancer Patient Support Program in Burlington. The CPSP was created by a group of cancer survivors and others touched by cancer. The Program provides a wide range of no-charge support services for cancer patients in Vermont and Upstate, NY, including Counseling, Nutritional Support and an Emergency Fund. I chose their Emergency Fund, which provides support to cancer patients and their families in financial crisis situations, as the recipient of any money we could raise.

    My hope was to feature Elisabeth at our first concert in 2003, but we weren’t able to work around her busy touring schedule. So, the first one featured New Hampshire folksinger Bill Staines and was held at a Burlington church. As with all the musicians and others along the way, Bill offered to sacrifice financially to help make it a success.

    The concept for year two came about after I briefly met guitar slinger Bill Kirchen after a show in 2003. Bill played lead guitar many years for Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen, whose album “Lost in the Ozone” introduced me to country-rock and their hit “Hot Rod Lincoln” in the 1970s. I contacted Bill later that year and asked if he might consider coming to Vermont and having a popular local band, The Starline Rhythm Boys, back him up.

    To my surprise, he agreed, and came all the way up from Austin, Texas to play in 2004, even borrowing a friend’s car at the Albany, NY airport to make it work financially. The Hampton Inn ballroom was packed, as he and the SRB’s rocked the house. Elisabeth von Trapp topped things off by singing several songs. The rest is history.

    This 9th annual event, now named ”Cabin Fever Reliever,” will be held at 8:00 PM on Saturday, March 26th at the Sheraton-Burlington’s Emerald Grand Ballroom. Bill Kirchen will be back, this time with his Washington DC-based band Too Much Fun. The Starline Rhythm Boys and Li’l Mo & the Monicats from NYC will start things out. And, LeRoy Preston, one of the best songwriters of all time and founding member of multiple Grammy winners “Asleep at The Wheel,” will make a special guest appearance.

    Adversity inspired this marketing guy, who can’t dance a step or play a note, to help others in a way I could never have imagined. I joined the CPSP Board for three years and saw first-hand their amazing work, and how the thousands of dollars we’ve raised has helped families in need. A journey that started with devastating news, but transformed by an Elisabeth von Trapp song, has culminated into the largest dance-concert in Vermont. In the words of Jerry Garcia, “What a long strange trip it’s been.”

  4. Wow all these amazing stories, it humbles a person. I believe there are no accidents and that feeling inspired by these stories is indeed a call to action. I also think that action can be driving a friend to the hospital and holder her hand or giving a foot rub. There are times when generosity of spirit can be just not being so self involved that helping someone else out with little things is just too much trouble.
    When a close friend of mine went through a double mastectomy I though it would be great for a group of us to cook up some dinners. What was so great is that Annie for one and my sister for another didn’t just drop the meals by but sat and really spent some healing loving time with her. She appreciated that time more than anything and as I get older I will always try and remember that there is no small giving it’s all about love.

  5. I am awestruck by Gloria’s generosity and she is an inspiration to me. If she can do this then the least I can so is support her and have donated to her cause. If you would also like to make a donation here is the link.

  6. Caroline Ingham /

    I met Gloria yesterday for the first time along with all the other beautiful ladies who will be accompanying us on the trek across the Jordanian desert in April. Gloria will remember me as one half of the the “Saddle Sore Sisters”, not to be confused with the other horseriding duo on the trek, “The Saddlebags!” I look forward to spending time getting to know them all, however from what I saw of Gloria yesterday and read about her today I think she could be the one that really makes this journey even more special! Good luck with your training, Gloria and see you at the airport!

  7. How touched I am from reading this blog . Caroline Ingham , a lovely young woman with whom I shared the Trek in Jordan last week and one of a beautiful bunch of 20 something people who totally spoiled and fussed over me, she told me to look at the blog today.

    I feel overwhelmed by such compliments .

    Annie George – A lovely, lovely young lady, whom I would have loved to have as a daughter in law and I think she knows that , a caring compassionate and very able young woman.

    Iris…Annie`s cousin whom I briefly met in London a long time ago .

    Paul…my darling son with a big heart, who always goes that extra mile to help anyone who is in need providing that they help themselves!!

    And to all the other bloggers , I just want to thank you for the kind words and tell you that… “WE HAVE DONE IT “!!THE CHALLENGE WAS HARD BUT JOYOUS , THE SCENERY AWESOME , THE HORSES and FELLOW RIDERS A DREAM , and the BEDOUINS that looked after us were magnificent, funny and caring ,the experience was HUMBLING and thanks to a lot of wonderful people like you ,we have been able to raise an enormous amount of money for Mary Curie Cancer Care.

    If I have done it (76 yrs old tomorrow ). You can do it too. It is so worth while. Love and thanks to you all.


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