2014 Awards & Interviews

The following individuals were honored for their achievements in 2014 at the June 22nd, FreeWalker Celebration. We recognized their participation and dedication to FreeWalker ideals of achieving difficult fitness goals, promoting community and setting an example for all FreeWalkers. The winners were interviewed by Paul Kiczek of the FreeWalkers:

Winners for 2014 are:

David Ascher - Best FreeWalker 2014

PK: You are among the elite FreeWalkers in terms of number of walks and miles you have completed over the years. What draws you to the FreeWalkers and walking?

David Ascher: I first learned about the FreeWalkers through the East Coast Greenway. I've been a dedicated cyclist over the years and a long walk seemed like a good alternative. It has been a great personal challenge, good exercise and chance to meet a lot of people.

PK: It seems at every event you are among the fastest walkers. What kind of speed (mph) would you say you normally average at a FreeWalkers event? What's your opinion about resting or breaks along the way?

David Ascher: I believe on the long walks I generally average about 3.5 mph, which of course is much slower than my usual pace of about 4.2 mph or more. I guess my long stride helps but it seems natural to me. Keeping a steady pace is important. Although I like to take a 5 minute break every 10-miles I rarely will sit down. For example, on the recent 20-mile Philadelphia walk the only break was to pick up a cheesesteak at the Reading Market - and I ate that on the go.

PK: I know you have been a cyclist too for many years and your involvement with the East Coast Greenway led you to us. Are you still cycling?

David Ascher: Freewalker activities have cut into my cycling but in some ways I enjoy walking more. I like the fellowship of talking while walking whereas I do not like to talk while cycling. Cyclists need to pay attention to the road. Also, I like to be able to just get up and walk anywhere at anytime.

I still ride when I can. Cycling of course requires some practice, equipment, special clothing, etc. While you can see a lot more while walking, you can't do 40 mph downhill while walking! I would say I balance both and still do charity bike rides every year, as I have for the last 25 years.

PK: I understand you and your wife Joani are empty nesters these days except for your dedication to training seeing eye dogs. What's your involvement with the Seeing Eye program?

David Ascher: Joani continues to write mystery novels most of her free time. We have been fostering Seeing Eye puppies for the last 20 years since our daughter got us involved in this project. We currently have our 13th dog, a female yellow Lab named Holliday. This year I will be cycling in the Gran Fondo to raise money for The Seeing Eye.

PK: Any advice or personal philosophy you would like to share with other FreeWalkers?

David Ascher: My advice to those just starting out is that it is surprising how fast one can build up to longer distances. Keep a positive attitude and just keep walking. The more you do the better you get. I am still shooting for my first full 50-miler. And, after that, there's plenty of opportunity to do more ahead.


Renata Luisi - Most Impressive Effort 2014

PK: I understand you live in New York City so you must be a natural walker. I know you do not own a car, so I and many suburbanite FreeWalkers would like to know, how you get around?

Renata Luisi: I take public transportation, walk and bicycle. Having access to 24 hour transportation is one of the benefits of living in the city. Sometimes you have to be very resourceful to get around, but there are always alternatives.

PK: I know one thing I share with you is a love of cycling too. Has the popularity of cycling and walking in the city changed the way you ride or walk?

Renata Luisi: It’s great that New York and other areas are now dedicating more resources to cycling and pedestrians. But I’ve always taken advantage of city streets and trails. Now, there are even more opportunities to explore other areas not as well known to me before because of all the new greenways and bike lanes. I've completed two century bike rides over 100 miles.

PK: How did you first learn of the FreeWalkers? Have you walked some of the other events in New York City?

Renata Luisi: I believe I saw a article for FreeWalkers while looking at the East Coast Greenway site. In the New York City area. I mostly walk as an alternative to getting around. I've been on bike rides, hikes and walks in Europe, various parts of the US, Canada and South America.  

PK: I would consider you a very active and adventurous traveler. What are some of the more interesting places you have traveled to?

Renata Luisi: Yemen, Oman/the Emirates, Ethiopia/Djibouti, Faroe Islands, Laos; there are many more. Though some stand out more than others, they all are interesting places. I like to look beyond the standard recommended places for something different and memorable. It’s the attitude of the individual traveler that makes a big difference.  

PK: You seem to represent a certain type of FreeWalker that welcomes the challenge of getting to events in distant places. What motivates you to put in that extra effort for these events?

Renata Luisi: As a traveler, I have never minded the long distances whether travel has been domestic or foreign. It's the idea of going somewhere different, seeing something new, exploring and learning. Exposing oneself to new experiences opens doors in many ways: especially in terms of acquiring more knowledge and becoming more aware of things by information or from observation.  It's something I experience in my life every day, whatever I'm doing.

Hua Davis - Best FreeWalker Spirit 2014

PK: Hua, there are few FreeWalkers that have as much energy as you do and I personally can attest to that. Can I ask how old you are and how you maintain your fitness? 

Hua Davis: I am nearing my 60th birthday.  I run 1⁄2 to 1 mile in the morning, and then stretching for 30 minutes 3-4 times a week before going out for work.  Also, I do one-hour lunch walks for 2.0-3.0 miles in Brandywine Park during a workweek. I like to hike and backpack in the wilderness every weekend with hiking groups.

PK: That’s a lot of activity! One of the remarkable facts that others might not know is that you live in Delaware. A nice state, but one that is many miles away and half-way between our two regions of metropolitan NY/NJ and Washington DC. How did you learn about the FreeWalkers and how do you manage to get to FreeWalker events?

Hua Davis: I learned about the FreeWalkers through Crazee Monkee Hiking and Out Door Club, a Meet-Up hiking group. Last year I noticed the FreeWalkers’ Big Walk 50-miler, and it proved to be great challenge for me. I generally follow several MeetUp groups for local walks and am always looking for new ones.

Thanks to the FreeWalkers, I can participate in different walking events in a different city, state or county, such as the 50 mile Kennedy Walk in Holland, Belgium and Germany. That gave me a chance to travel to the Europe for the first time. I remember when I came back from the walk my office workers asked me how it went. I said to them, “Do I look any different”? They eyeballed me up and down. I pointed to my heart, and said, “I have changed HERE”.

Freewalkers.org is a great organization where people get together and enjoy the outdoor activity of walking with free expression and free spirit. I believe the human body can get stronger at any age by gradual, low intensity, low impact regular exercises. Walking is an activity with the advantages of being inexpensive, easy to start, and easy to succeed. As long as the mountain stands, the road extends, the wind blows, the clouds glides, the river drifts, and the ocean flows, life will never be boring....!!!!

PK: One reason you were honored for Best FreeWalker Spirit Award was that I witnessed your outgoing charm offensive during our recent Holland walk. Does your approach to people have anything to do with your personal background?

Hua Davis: According to my mother, I was born a genetically happy person. On the day of 10/30/1996, I came to the US from China. I was a first generation immigrant - someone looking for a better life, and opportunities for personal achievement. I came from a culture that lacked a basic standard of living. I am still amazed how much time I can spend on things that I like to do, without worry about making a basic living. So, free time may be more precious for me than others.

PK: Your personal ambition to attend Medical school is an inspiration to all of us. If anyone can achieve this difficult goal later in life it would be you. Why are you motivated to become a physician?

Hua Davis: My motivation to become a physician comes from my early medical background. When I was 16, I became a doctor without formal education because there was no school for 10 years in China due to the “Culture Revolution”. When medical school reopened, I was over the age limitation for admission. I have always wanted to go to medical school to systemically learn the basic principles of medicine on a cellular, molecule and DNA level. Now the time has come, I am financially, physically, and mentally ready for a new challenge to fulfill my dream.

PK: Is there anything you would like to mention about the immigration experience and life in the US?

Hua Davis: The stories of how new immigrants succeed in the US are the same. They are based on extremely hard work. When that airplane landed in the Philadelphia airport in 1996 I was 42, and I knew the land under my feet was ground zero. I had no friends. My only daughter was in China. I had no job, no money, and no English.

The long Journey stared with the enrollment in ESL (English as second language) at a community college. I eventually earned an associates degree in nursing, then a BSN, then an MSN. At the same time, I worked as house cleaner, gardener, babysitter, food deliver, waitress, massage therapist, nurse assistant, practical nurse, RN, and now a nationally certified, state licensed Nurse Practitioner in Adult Health. My daughter finally made it to the U.S. when she was 19, and she completed her master degree in fine arts from The Fine Art Academy of New York.

Anytime, I look back from where I came, the most important thing is not only what I’ve achieved in my healthcare career, but also the friendship I’ve shared with so many wonderful people I have met along the way. I’ve learned that love and compassion are the riches I am most proud of in my life.

In Their Footsteps...(Awards overview)


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Comment by Paul Kiczek on March 8, 2016 at 1:14pm

Hua Davis passed away on March 6, 2016 during an adventurous hike in the Adirondacks. She and her spirit will be sorely missed by anyone who knew her. A true inspiration for all FreeWalkers. 

Comment by Paul Kiczek on July 28, 2014 at 7:31pm

Congrats to our 2014 winners. A great group of dedicated and inspirational individuals! Your efforts are what keeps FreeWalkers going.

Recent Events

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June 17, 2017 - This event combined the history of the Roebling family (built the Brooklyn Bridge and many others) and their rise and fall and the town they created that represented an immigrant's dream 100-years ago.

Our 34 FreeWalkers continued another 13 miles to Trenton to experience a unique festival called Art All Night which offered a huge stage to experience live visual and audio art along with caravan of food trucks for 24-hours straight. The entire day was a unique and interesting experience in history and art.

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June 10, 2017 - It turned out to be a great day for a great event. Our largest event yet with 125 participants. Many making it all the way to the end of 30-miles. If there was any particular challenge it was the heat building up but with some breeze to help as it reached the mid-80s.

This year to accommodate more challengers we expanded the support providing improved signage and a support stop near the GWB. Our thanks to the Hudson River Walkway Conservancy, East Coast Greenway, Shorewalkers and Metrotrails for helping make this a huge success for FreeWalkers and our United Walking effort.

Website Update here

Survey resultsTake Survey. 

Photos here

The Big Walk 2017

May 20, 2017 - Rain at the crack of dawn did nothing to stop 40+ FreeWalkers' at this 8th annual premier long distance event. Fortunately, the weather cooperated, mostly, and we had 11 finish the maximum 50-miles.

The walk from Metropark station to Penn Station NYC is a diverse challenge with many obstacles which draw the best of our long distance walkers.

Website Update here

Survey resultsTake Survey. 

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Between Walk 2017

April 15, 2017 - With a good temps but overcast skies 23. FreeWalkers walked the 12 miles from New Brunswick to Metropark station. This year's events included a new free bagel stop at Ruthie's in Highland Park and a great personal tour of the newly renovated Thomas Edison Center in Menlo Park.

Jack Shi's Excellent Adventure

Website Update here

Survey resultsTake Survey

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Great Canal Walk 2017

April 8, 2017 - It was a beautiful day for a walk with a taste of spring. FourWalkers walked the 40 miles from Trenton and 29 walkers favored the shorter, yet challenging 28 miles from Princeton to New Brunswick.

Website Update here

Survey results. Take Survey

Photos here

Spring Ahead 2017

March 19, 2017 - Eight FreeWalkers walked the 12-miles from Trenton to Princeton on a day when winter would not let go. Snow covered trail and cold temps slowed down the trek but sun and good spirits were plentiful. 

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Roosevelt Island/Astoria 2017

March 4, 2017 - About 40 braved the mid-teens and walked across town to the tram. We explored the island and the FDR 4 Freedoms Monument and park. Eventually crossing the bridge to Queens for some middle-eastern sights, smells and tastes. Ending it all at the famous Czech Beer Hall. 

See photos here

See survey results here

Kennedy 50-Mile Walk 2017

February 4, 2017 - An event for history buffs and hardcore walkers. Our 4th walk along the C&O Canal in Maryland and West Virginia - just like Bobby Kennedy did in 1963. Chilly weather did not dampen the can-do spirit of 50 fellow walkers at our grand annual event.

Learn more>>
See photos here
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TRAINing Walk 2017

January 28, 2017 - It's mid-winter and 75 hearty walkers show up at the Morristown train station. This year we went West to East and ended in a cozy bar called Coda. Special kudos to Madison Honda for their hospitatlity.

See photos here
See the survey results here.

Midnight March on Princeton

January 7, 2017 - The Midnight March was our first all-night walking event and first event for the new year. Six brave FreeWalkers played wannabe soldiers and stayed with the troops into battle.at daybreak.
Read the entire story here
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See the video!

Holiday Lights in Dyker Heights

December 16, 2016 - About a dozen FreeWalkers braved extreme cold and outmaneuvered rabid fans of the famous Brooklyn neighborhood. Thanks to Nakis Pericleous for leading us to the holiday kingdom.
See photos here

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December 4, 2016 - There were 35 FreeWalkers walking the grand and historic neighborhoods of South Orange and Maplewood followed by our year-end party and awards. Thanks to Risa Olinsky and David Ascher for a great day for a walk, celebration party and a start of the holiday season..
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Philadelphia Marathon Walk

October 30, 2016 - Charles Upkike led about 20 FreeWalkers along the route of the Philadelphia Marathon, know for its scenery - especially this time of year.

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October 30, 2016 - Rick Mohovich led about a dozen FreeWalkers around the Tarrytown area in a walk that passed through the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery of Wahington Irving fame.

Tour of Brooklyn - Coney Island

October 29, 2016 - 25 FreeWalkers walked from the New City waterfront to Coney Island on our annual tour of a different section of Brooklyn each year. Always popular and interesting, we enjoyed great weather and scenery as we walked the greenway trail, including under the Verrazano Bridge. Thanks leader Nancy Jonap!
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October 20-23, 2016 - Four consecutive days, 120 miles. Walking from York PA to Frenchtown. FreeWalkers walked in support of Jim Gregoire, a FreeWalker and man on a mission to walk the entire US East Coast. Charles Updike, FreeWalkers PA Regional director organized this series of walk to keep him company and provide a great reason to visit the Delaware River area.
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Providence to Boston July 23 to July 29 - Loredana, Ken and Nancy have finished thier 110 mile week-long expedition on the ECGA.

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See Loredana's 7-day Photo Journal

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