“One More Step, One More Life!”

On the 1st day of May, 2005, while it was drizzling, many families streamed to the promenade in Mount Namsan which was giving out a sweet smell of lilac. Kids who were full of life like green leaves, mothers who became lighthearted as if they had been out in a long time, and fathers who were taking care of his family! They were all the members of the New Life Welfare Foundation, who gathered to help children with heart disease, under the slogan, “One More Step, One More Life!”

The New Life Family Walkathon had been held every year since 2002, being jointly hosted by the New Life Welfare Foundation and the Save the Children Korea, and this was the 6th walkathon. Chairwoman Zahng Gil-jah spoke about the purpose of the walkathon, saying, “It is to help children suffering from intractable diseases, strengthen global families’ unity, and deliver the message of “hope” to our neighbors in need, greeting May the Month of Family.” About 4,000 people including 3,400 foundation members attended the 6th Walkathon. It was sponsored by the Commission on Youth Protection, the Seoul Metropolitan Government, the Nestle Korea Ltd, and the Se-jong General Hospital.

The clouds cleared away soon, and the sun was spreading its beams to the members, who had prepared umbrellas and rain coats to attend this love-sharing event. After the opening speech of Yi Bae-keun the Chairman of Save the Children, Cha Jeong-seop the Deputy Director-General for Child and Youth Activities of the Commission on Youth Protection delivered a congratulatory message, wishing the walkathon to be a family festival. Lee Sun-jae the Sponsor Chairman of the foundation thanked the members by saying, “The New Life Welfare Foundation members are very willing to do good deeds,” and encouraged them, saying, “The weather forecaster said it would rain today, but I think God was moved by your warmheartedness.”

TV Announcer Park Min-jeong, who emceed the walkathon, informed the participants that the collected donations had been used to support 10 children with heart disease for the past three years, and introduced the children with heart disease who would be supported by this walkathon. Lee Su-hyang (9), who received operation in January and recovered from her heart disease, read a letter of gratitude and received a big round of applause by saying, “Now I don’t feel sick even though I run. When I grow up, I will help many people in need.”

Lee Su-hyang, who suffered from heart disease since she was four year old, wants to be a nurse who helps the sick. Her parents were relieved of great anxiety after their daughter became healthy, and her 7-year-old younger sister is also happy to play with dolls with her sister.

At the speech of encouragement, Chairwoman Zahng Gil-jah let the participants have concern over the children with intractable diseases, and appealed to them for far-reaching neighborly love, saying, “Many people are suffering from big and small disasters such as earthquakes and tsunami that happened at the end of last year. Let’s comfort the victims whose places were broken and live hard lives, and let’s help our neighbors who are suffering from their “intractable disease of mind,” being fallen in despair.” Lee Sang-dae the Representative Director of Save the Children Korea said, “We, adults, should do our best to help children grow up safe, being respected.”

After the congratulatory messages, all the participants did a simple stretching exercise and began to walk with the chairwoman’s starting signal. Children walked happily with their fathers and mothers. A father said, “I’m happy to join today because it’s helpful for my health, for my neighbors, and for my family.”

Yang Jong-mi (33, Gwangjin-gu, Seoul) who walked with her family said that it had been a long time since her family went out together. Her husband Lee Seong-gil (33), who was giving his 5-year-old daughter, Ju-yeong, a ride on his shoulder and holding his 7-year-old son, Gyeong-hun, by the hand, said, “I usually come home late, so I don’t have much time to be with my children. Today we are happy to have a pleasant time together.” Their children also looked happy to be with their parents.

Lively music by the military band of the Capital Defense Command welcomed the participants at the arrival point, Baek-bum Plaza. After completing walking, they enjoyed their lunch with their families. Children, who painted their face and hold cotton candy and balloon in their hands, took picture with cartoon characters or played about with their friends. It was like Children’s Day.

Lee Eun-ju (39) whose baby, Sang-mi (2), recovered her health after her heart disease operation in April said that the members with smiles on their faces looked like angels. The families of children with heart disease ate lunch together with the foundation members, and said that they, too, would help others from now on. The members, as parents, could understand them in some degree how painful it was when they saw their sick children and also how happy they were when their children recovered their health.

Lee Yeon-sun (31, Jung-gu, Seoul), who participated the walkathon with her husband and her 18-month-old baby in a baby carriage, said that she attended the walkathon from last year to help the children suffering from disease. She said she came to understand the heartbreak of the parents who had sick children after she gave birth to her baby. As we heard her saying, “I’m very worried when my baby is sick. Then how much more painful will the parents be?” we were remind of the chairwoman’s words, “If my family is precious, so are others’ families.”

If our love extends from “my family” to “our neighbors,” the world will be better. Along with the footsteps that the members carried with their families and neighbors, the number of healthy children and happy families will increase throughout the world.