The way WTOC bureau chief Dal Cannady remembers it, he’d been doing his annual walk for the American Red Cross for two years when he ran into Hinesville businesswoman Brigette Shanken.
“I knew her from some of her volunteer efforts at Fort Stewart’s Wynn Army Community Hospital,” Cannady said. “She told me I’d done the walk twice and hadn’t been in Liberty County yet. She said, ‘Next year, you will be in Liberty County,’ and I said ‘yes m’am,’ because anybody who knows Brigette knows that’s what you say to her in those situations.’”
Four years later, Cannady will make his fourth fundraising walk through a portion of Liberty County when he strolls down Highway 84 from Walthourville to Midway. Part of that trek will take Cannady up Gen. Screven Way to Main Street, where he’ll take photos in front of the Justice Center around 10 a.m.
Cannady also will be on hand for at least a portion of a celebrity bartending event at The Pour House in Hinesville.
It’s slated to get under way at 6 p.m. Monday, with teams from the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce, Ameris Bank, Rotaract Club of Hinesville, Hinesville Area Board of Realtors, The Heritage Bank and the Coastal Courier on hand to raise funds for the Red Cross.
Cannady said he’ll mostly try to stay out of the bartenders way.
“It’s always a great time at The Pour House, and we hope folks show up hungry and then stick around and have a great time while supporting their favorite bank or the Coastal Courier,” he said.
During the day, Cannady also will make a stop at First Presbyterian Christian Academy and expects part of his walk on 84 to include an escort from members of a group known as Seniors of Walthourville, Inc.
The seniors will be helping Cannady make his last walk through a portion of Liberty, at least on behalf of the Red Cross.
Cannady turns 50 this year and, having extended his walk a mile a year since he began in 2012, figured 100 miles on the 100th anniversary of the American Red Cross of Southeast Georgia had a nice round number symmetry.
Besides, he walks at an average 4 mph pace, which translates into a 15 minute mile. That’s not bad, but do that for four or more hours a day and it can start to beat you up.
Besides, as Cannady put it, he’s “no spring chicken anymore.”
But he is something of an institution in the area. A Waynesboro native and Georgia Southern graduate, Cannady began reporting for WTOC in 1996, and over the last 21 years he has covered just about every story you can imagine in just about every small town you can name and then some.
All of which means just about everybody knows Cannady.
“I was fortunate enough over the years to get to broaden out and cover so many different communities and stories, and kind of get to be the face of WTOC and be there when there’d be a big story in their town,” Cannady said.
One such big story from a few years ago led Cannady to pick Hazlehurst as his starting point this year. He’ll be out there walking through Jeff Davis County over to Baxley in Appling County today.
“Only a few years ago that community saw a huge lumber mill fire that burned for days, and the American Red Cross was out there assisting with food and water for fire crews battling the fire for three days,” Cannady said.
Thursday, Cannady will walk from Reidsville to Claxton, then Claxton to Glennville on Friday, where there’ll be a concert with Lance Stinson at the Glennville Auditorium. Saturday, Cannady will walk from Montgomery County into Toombs County, and Vidalia and Lyons.
By Sunday, he’ll be walking from Emmanuel County down to Metter. Much of his walk will include events, and he won’t be alone for long. There will be live remotes, social media updates and lots of airtime and exposure for WTOC.
But the real winner is the American Red Cross, for which Cannady has raised about $55,000 through his walks.
“That says to me that people in Liberty County and other communities around Southeast Georgia care,” he said. “When there is a storm or a house fire they care about how their neighbors cope and how they get over it. They want to be of assistance and that’s why they’re donating.”
Cannady, who also hopes to convince some folks to become ARC volunteers, said it’s not the big storms like Matthew that need the attention, it’s the small individual disasters that need responding too.
“Think about the nights we hear about a house fire on the news in Chatham or Liberty or Long or Bulloch or Toombs, and how many nights a week is the Red Cross out there providing assistance to a needy family that might only come up to a few hundred dollars, but if you multiply that by 200 times a year, it gets to be a big amount,” Cannady said.
Which is why the walk, and all the fuss that will culminate on Tuesday in Statesboro when Cannady hits 100 miles.
Shanken said getting Cannady to include Liberty in his walk to benefit the American Red Cross was about more than her.
“It’s truly a community effort,” she said. “A few can take on the leadership tasks, but it takes many to make it happen.”
You can support Cannady, Shanken and local teams at The Pour House at 6 p.m. Monday or by going online at http://www.redcross.org/dalsheroes-pub.