By ANN BELCHER
Do not dwell on the past. Do not dream of the future. Concentrate the mind on the present moment." A well-known Buddhist quote.
At the present moment, Brocton native D.J. Hixson-Abram is making an arduous journey back to his hometown and by request of one of his donors for Walk for the Arches, he is to recite that quote to anyone he sees within a five mile radius while walking. He has taken all kinds of requests, and agreed to walk at least half of the 275 miles that separate Brocton from his current residence in Dillsburg, Pa., just outside of Harrisburg, all to raise money to restore and relight a meaningful piece of his past - the four corner arches in the village of Brocton.
"Honestly, when I saw how Village Clerk Karen Ardillo got the Readers' Digest online contest to help raise money for this project, I thought 'I'd like to contribute somehow,'" stated Hixson-Abram. "Out of every where I have been, Brocton to me is still the greatest town."
Hixson-Abram is a 1992 graduate of Brocton Central, and is a proud, yet humble United State Marine, who has seen the up-close-and-personal side of war, and is currently working as a Department of Defense analyst from his hometown in Pennsylvania. Married to his high school sweetheart, Candy (Covert,) and a busy father to five children, he acknowledges all of the incredible walks of life that his former classmates and other natives of Brocton and Portland have taken.
"When you look at the people that have graduated from Brocton, some of these people do outstanding things after they leave here. Amy Frost - who is a classmate of mine and is now teaching kids in Brocton's school district; John Hawk, a successful school administrator in Nevada; Karl Rominger, part of the legal defense in the recent Jerry Sandusky trial - you could go on and on. We should be quite proud of this little town, and this is just one way that I can give back to that."
Stepping off Friday morning, Hixson-Abram stepped off to walk from 7 a.m. to approximately 1:30 p.m. and then drove the rest of the transit getting him 10 hours into the journey. Most of the miles, he noted, will probably be driven, as lots of highway separates both places, which he can't technically walk. However, he is stopping to set up camp along the way and putting in his walking miles from whatever checkpoint he arrives at.
A seasoned soldier who has walked over 100 miles before, he is adequately equipped in a "support vehicle," with ready to eat meals (or M.R.E's in military terms;) sunscreen; emergency flashlights; modes of communication; an MP3 player; and an essential supply of Ibuprofen.
"Recently I did have a series of doctor's appointments to address some fatigue I had been experiencing," he said.
Hixon-Abram is also an auxiliary police officer and a volunteer with Candy for a youth organization.
"My doctor ran a series of tests, which everything came out fine for, and I'm ready to walk," he said.
Physical challenges of the transit will be an abnormally high heat index, which was 102 degrees as he left Friday morning, as well as the presence of positive West Nile Virus-carrying mosquitoes. He has been paying close attention to any reports related to that information and has also stocked himself with mosquito repellant, as well as an adequate drinking water supply to combat dehydration. Along his journey, he met up with a cyclist originally from Upstate New York who is making a trek on two wheels for cancer prevention.
He intends to arrive Saturday, July 7 at or around 2 p.m. under the arches in Brocton, where he will be joined by family and friends who have pledged to walk with him through town, including his grandmother, Mary Jane Perkins.
"My grandmother and all of her friends may be carrying me through the arches," he joked. "But I can't wait to see my family and get some much needed rest as I enter the village."
He will also be glad to finally meet Ardillo face to face. He humbly describes his journey as "not really a big deal."
"I don't want any of the attention put on myself. This is for the arches and for the town. This town and village have supported me growing up. They've supported me as a young soldier going overseas. They supported me coming back home and going back overseas again. I've been all of the country, and no town I've seen in this country has been so patriotic. How many places can you go, and count on American flags lining the streets at every notable holiday? In my heart, I will always be from Brocton. This is community. It's family. It's Small Town, U.S.A. to a 't.' It truly is the 'Red, White and Blue.' As a kid, I loved the arches as part of this community."
Hixson-Abram's uncle, former mayor and current village trustee, J. Dale Abram is admittedly a huge inspiration to him.
"My uncle truly loves Brocton, and seeing his commitment to do his best for the town and village has humbled me as well."
He notes he would like to see positive changes for the community just as the current board of trustees are working towards in order to lift Brocton's faade and spirit, even if a little bit.
"If you sit on a tropical island for 20 years, you expect it to look the same all through those 20 years. Brocton will always be Brocton, but it looks so much different than it did 20 years ago. This year will be my 20th class reunion. Twenty years before that, my mother (Donna Perkins Paddock) graduated, 20 years before that, my grandmother. Hopefully we can get back some of what this community has lost this town and village deserve so much more than what's here right now."
Hixson-Abram will miss out on Brocton's Alumni Weekend, held the weekend after his walk. His wife dutifully reminded him that their wedding anniversary falls on that weekend, and his daughter will be celebrating her birthday the Monday after. However, a classmate from the class of '92, Mary (Becker) Maggio, has invited him to loop around the arches to her Harmon Hill Road address where he has the option of riding on one of four antique tractors with Maggio's family. The Beckers have thoughtfully donated in memory of Mary's late father and long time Brocton businessman, Gaius Becker, who was an antique equipment enthusiast.
The Brocton native states he is glad to see family involvement like the Beckers' for the communitywide event, especially those taking part in the donor recognition program that allows families or organizations to sponsor more than $250 to earn their name on a recognition plaque.
"Long after any of us are gone, our names will be etched on that plaque. I just think that's awesome."
Honoring those close to him, Hixson-Abram has dedicated mile segments to: late Brocton native, Angie Clutter and her son James, who were tragically murdered in 1998 ; Mark Carlson, who lost his life in a 2009 motorcycle accident; friend and former Marine, Sgt. Ben Williams, killed in action in 2006; and his late grandfather, Carl Perkins.
Anyone wishing to donate, may 'Like' his Walk for the Arches Facebook page to learn more and get updates of where D.J. is on his journey. Donations can be sent directly to the Village Clerk's office in Brocton, with a note indicating it is part of the walk.
"I have always kept up with what is happening in Brocton, no matter where I've been. With former Brocton alumni being invited to speak for graduations, and the existence of the B.C.S. Hall of Fame, I once asked myself 'what would I talk to students about?' I don't think I have to tell them anything. I would challenge most schools to put their students against people that have grown up and graduated in this community, and I think they would be hard-pressed to stand up against the incredible things our students have done. We graduated 52 students in the class of 1992. But we are in all walks of life, and most are doing incredible things. Kids who recently graduated may drift away from the area like we did, but the great school and community that the arches represent will carry on with them."
Comments on this article may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org