GREENVILLE — A lot of folks take part in walk-a-thon events to raise money for cancer research.
But as far as he knows, Frank DePue is the first walker to take his camel hiking with him.
On Saturday, Frank will traverse 30 miles of Montcalm County, accompanied by Shalemar, his dromedary (“one-hump”) camel, in an effort to raise about $1,000. It’s his way of saying thank you to the doctors who helped free his wife, Judith, from cancer’s grip this past year.
Judith was recently diagnosed cancer-free after having undergone surgery, chemo-therapy and radiation treatments. Though somewhat weaker than she was prior to the treatment, Judith is simply glad to be alive and healthy.
The DePues own Animal Crackers Farm, a Greenville-based traveling petting zoo. For the past 18 years, Shalemar has been one of the zoo’s star attractions. Frank is hoping her appearance on the streets of Greenville during Danish Festival weekend will encourage people to donate money to their cause.
“I’m putting two buckets on her saddle,” Frank said. “When you walk past with a camel, people are going to stop you. I’m hoping some of them will want to donate to the cancer society when they do.”
Frank admits that at 73 years old, a 30-mile hike represents some fairly serious footwork, but he’s determined to get started early and complete the walk in a single day.
“OK, maybe two days,” he added.
Thirty miles isn’t exactly a walk in the park for the camel, either. Frank plans to have a trailer waiting at various locations along his route so Shalemar can rest between visits with onlookers.
Frank’s route will begin at 8 a.m. at Harvey’s Mill just outside Carson City. He plans to travel along M-57, stopping at various locations including The Rusty Nail, Butternut Corner, Beth Haven Baptist Academy and others. His trek will end at Walmart on M-57 west of Greenville.
“My wife thinks I’m crazy,” Frank said. “But this is just something I want to do. I’ve walked her (Shalemar) downtown several times and this is just something I wanted to do.”
Judith agrees that she does indeed think her husband is displaying a marked lack of good sense, but after 53 years of marriage, she knows better than to try to stop him.
“He and the camel are both gonna be plenty tired,” Judith said. “He thinks he can do it in a day; he said 11 hours. I have to admit he usually does what he says he’s going to do. And he and the camel both like to walk.”
Frank added that word-of-mouth pre-walk buzz has already brought in a few donations.
“I have about $30 in my pocket already,” he said. “I’ve told a few people about it and they wanted to donate. I’m hoping that people we see along the walk will also want to. If they do, we’ll be right there.”
Frank is inviting others who would like to join him in the fundraising effort to walk alongside himself and Shalemar. Interested parties may join the walk in progress or meet at Harvey’s Mill at 8 a.m. Saturday.