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Thoughts before the Chicago Marathon

As I sit on the eve before I join about 110 other ham radio operators from three states to work on the Bank of America’s Chicago Marathon, it has given me some time to reflect on this incredible community we have created.

First, what are we bringing to the party? We represent a diverse group of largely professional talent that has come to this hobby as a source of fun, education and service. We come prepared with our own equipment and talents. Many of us had additional training in how to be useful parts of larger responses.

Yet, the unfortunate fact is that most people belittle the contribution we could make because they see the hobby as out dated or not relevant for our iPod/iPad/iPhone generation. So, I am most grateful that the organizers of this event that they have come to realize that ham radio can play an important part and the operators who work behind the radios have much more to offer than just a car loaded with antennas and a few radios. We have become valued because we have shown that we can deliver for the medical teams who are deployed along the 26 miles of the course and they have come to depend on use for their communication back to Event Command. So, yes, working this event has been very rewarding …but so have many of the other public service events that I have been part of this year.

In June, I worked as a SAG (support) car for the Tour de Cure Bike race. Hams were used at rest areas and as rovers helping bikers who have flats or are exhausted or in some cases, needed to be transported to other places. Radio has connected us with these events and offered ways for the sponsors to provide a professional level of support to their riders. Same is true with the Evanston Bike Club’s North Shore Century. 30 hams from various clubs, although largely from ours, gave the 1900 riders of that event a sense of security and safety that you would not have ordinarily felt if you were out riding on your own. Our repeater, the tool we use every day to chat with one another, became an incredible important lifeline for this organization. The riders expressed their appreciation by waving or commenting to us when they were riding in our cars. They were very impressed with our professionalism!

So, all of these public service events help to give an important face to ham radio. Yes, unfortunately most people associate ham radio with their father’s generation or with the Titanic! And, you can’t totally blame them. Where else do they even see us working our magic? Well, in our basements, in closets or tucked away in attic ham shacks? We are invisible …so it is incredibly important that we come out and support these events, just so people know we are here. So our voices can be heard! So the public can see what we can do. Personally, I am very proud of the public service work I have done using ham radio as the tool. It has been a most rewarding activity. If you have not yet helped out with one of these events, try one. There is something happening almost every weekend and many of these could use an additional ham radio volunteer.

Meanwhile, I just want to say thank to the hundreds of you who have already said “yes” and have done your part to help us deliver for our various sponsors. Slowly, we are making a difference and younger people are seeing that there is much more than “i_” …