by Tara Walker
To officially walk around the world, Guinness World Records required that the journey be 14,000 miles while walking across at least 4 continents. Molly Letoskfy had a goal of being the first woman to walk around the world, but her focus was raising funds and awareness for breast cancer. She finally reached the 14,000-mile goal in Grand County in the summer of 2004. Polly says that this challenge showed her that she wasn’t alone, over 20,000 people worldwide helped her during her journey, including Lions club and Rotary club members. When she returned, she had so many stories to share, she wrote a book, “3MPH: The Adventures of One Woman’s Walk Around the World”.
That book ended up in the hands of Florice Lietzke, Grand county resident and a member of the Fraser Lions Club. In her book, Polly shared many personal stories of how Lions Club members around the world helped her. Florice eagerly contacted Polly, hoping to get her to visit Grand County again as a motivational speaker. Polly responded, “I will do anything for Lions. So many Lions helped me so I always promised myself that whatever the Lions want for the rest of my life, I will give it to them. What the Lions want, the Lions get.”
On Thursday, September 14, Polly Letofsky returned to Grand County to a full house of county residents and Lions club members. She started by explaining that she first thought of walking around the world when she was 12 years old, hearing about David Kunst, the first man to walk around the world. Then in her thirties, she was living in Vail, Colorado. So many of her friends were being impacted by breast cancer and there was a lot of misinformation. She decided she had to do something.
She decided to walk. She walked across North America, Australia, Asia and Europe, 22 countries and 14,000 miles. It was in Australia when she met her first Lions club member. “I was the CEO of my own walk, but the people of the world were like a chain helping me along from town to town. I learned that we are never alone. All we have to do is ask. Don’t be afraid to go on your own journey.”
When Polly arrived back in the United States, a lot had changed in 1999. 9/11 had happened, the war in Afghanistan had happened. She was worried she wouldn’t recognize her home. When she flew into New York City and turned onto Time Square, she felt love. “I feel blessed to know that as I headed home across this country, I found Americans to be the friendliest and most hospitable people of anyone in the world. I hopped and skipped across New Jersey, upstate New York, Wisconsin. I saw the first little orange school bus and though it was so cute. I saw the little league games and the Dunkin Donuts and the demolition derbies and the small-town fairs. After 4 years of discovering all the countries, I was really discovering my home. This was my prize. My prize for persevering.”
On her historic walk, Polly went through 29 pairs of shoes. In the last mile in Colorado, her friends gave her a ruby pair of sparkly New Balances and told her, “There is no place like home”. The audience was in stitches as Polly shared interesting stories from her 5-year walk. On her journey, she found $38 dollars of change on the road. She had food poisoning three times (Australia, Luxembourg and Missouri). At one point, people on the road tossed a lasagna at her, but forgot the utensils. In India, she had to use Google to hire a man to walk with her so men would stop harassing her. All her stories were filled with humor even when discussing serious events.
Polly Letofsky raised over $200,000 for breast cancer. While many of us may not be ready to go walk around the world to raise funds for breast cancer, she encouraged the audience to join local organizations like the Lions Club or the Rotary Club and to volunteer in our communities. She encouraged everyone to be brave because if she could become the first woman to walk around the world, we could do whatever it is we fear doing.