In Hong Kong , there was a non profit organization called the Community Chest. This was an organization that took care of the poor and needy. Every year, they would have a campaign to raise funds for their “Chest” so that they could look after the needs of the not so fortunate in Hong Kong. One of their drives was called the Bak Man Huang. Literally translated it means a hundred, ten thousand, walk. It really meant The Million Dollar Walk. Their annual goal was to raise many millions and the Million Dollar Walk was just one of the events. They even sponsored telethons similar to the Jerry Louis telethons for Muscular Dystrophy.
This was not just a casual stroll around the block. The Million Dollar Walk was a 20 mile course that took one far out into the countryside and up into the mountains. Hong Kong is physically too small to easily carve out a route that would be 20 miles long. If one walked 20 miles straight from any point in Hong Kong, one would end up either in Mainland China or somewhere in the South China Sea. The walk started from Kowloon Tong, where some of Heung Wing’s cousins lived. (His eventual sister in law and their family also lived in that area on Oxford Road.) The walk would take one under the shadows of Lion Rock, the mountain named in such a manner because the summit from all sides resembled a lion at rest. The full crest and mane could be seen from most points in Hong Kong and this particular peak was one of the “Nine Dragons” that made up the chain of summits that Kowloon is named after. Kowloon in Chinese is “Gau Loong” which means nine dragons. The ranges and the city was so named because of the wavy resemblance to the undulating tail of dragons to the silhouetted ridge lines of the mountain range with nine summits.
After the start, the trail would head out towards the New Territories along Loong Cheung Doe which carries the familiar western meaning of Farm to Market Road. Then the walk would wind its way alongside beautiful mountainsides towards Tsuen Wan. Tsuen Wan used to be a small town on the fringes of the big city but now is a large city of its own on the edge of a megalopolis. Just past the town center, the walk would detour to the right and head up the side of a mountain that contained the Tsuen Wan Reservoir. Heung Wing’s school had once taken an excursion to this reservoir in the 4th grade. He even has a couple of old pictures of that excursion that were taken by his first camera. Up the hill the trail went and past the reservoir into the mountains. From the narrow single file dirt path, one could gaze back down on the emerald green oasis. Approximately 2 hours later into the walk, the path would lead back towards the reservoir from the other side of the mountain and that signaled the mid point of the trek. Most of the walkers would take a lunch break there on the banks of the resevoir while enjoying the senic vista so different than the city that they lived in. After the quick bite, it was back towards the city.
Students like Heung Wing would spend weeks before the walk signing up sponsors for their trek. Even though the walk was a long one, sponsors usually sponsored approximately five to ten cents to a mile. If one passed though all the checkpoints to show that one completed the 20 miles, a five cents per mile sponsor would then donate a total of one dollar to the charity. Mind you a dollar in Hong Kong was only in Heung Wing’s days 20 cents US. These walks were hard work for the students, but most young school students would eagerly participate. There were internal school competitions to see who would sign up the most sponsors. There were also challenges to see which class had raise the most money collectively.
Heung Wing ‘s first opportunity to walk for charity was in the 5th grade. Heung Wing went from friend to friend, relative to relative and then to the relative’s friends to sign as many people up as he could. He did very well in signing up sponsors for most of them did not think that a young scrawny looking fellow could ever make the 20 miles. Therefore Heung Wing’s sponsors ended up compensating for their doubts by signing higher pledges per mile. After a few weeks of marketing and sales, Heung Wing was mentally ready for the walk.
Heung Wing was in the first year of the school that eventually he would spend from 5th grade on through 10th grade. (He left to go abroad for his junior and senior years). The group of friends that he were to participate with on his inaugural walk all belonged to the 6th Kowloon Boy Scout Group of which he had joined as a member. At the day of the walk Heung Wing and about 20 others from this group gathered in Kowloon Tong at the registration area which was at the Baptist College. Early that morning, Heung Wing packed his back pack with some sandwiches that had been prepared for him. From his closet he tried to pick out the pair of shoes that he would walk in. Not knowing the key criteria of comfort was essential for talking a long walk, Heung Wing picked a pair of boots that he had not worn many times before, thinking that the boots would really help in the hilly portions. By the midway point at the reservoir, Heung Wing’s feet were already beginning to get stiff and sore. At the long home stretch of highway on Loong Cheong Doe, Heung Wing could hardly conceal his pain caused by blisters. He was walking awkwardly now and very slowly. Soon he was at the back of his boy scout pack. There were still 4-5 miles to go and Heung Wing not only experienced physical pain but keeping control of his spirit and determination became a seperate effort all unto its own. Sensing the dilemma he was in, two of his scout friends slowed down to keep him company.
Even though the school had let out for the day to encourage their students to participate, it was not required and probably upwards of 70 percent of the students did not participate. On top of it, many planned only to walk for a few miles and told their sponsors ahead of time so that they could sponsor accordingly. Heung Wing had the opportunity to stop at any moment, and those thoughts crossed his mind more than once. What kept him going? He belonged in the youngest class. He was only in 5th grade. He was not particularly athletic or even healthy. Most of all he was in great pain. The combination of encouragement from his boy scout friends and a fierce determination to finish despite the pain were the primary reasons that he continued. Heung Wing would not give up, he knew it was harder for him to walk than the others, he also knew about the mistake he made earlier that morning with his choice of shoes. But he tried his best not to use those as excuses not to go on. On the occasions where he wanted to stop and when his body wantet to gave into the pain, his friends were by his side. When he finally made it back to the starting point, most of the other boy scout members had arrived almost an hour earlier. There were no jeers, for that would have crushed him. Yet, there was no particular cheers either. The members of this boy scout group in their subtle way expected their troop members to give it their all, in spite of the adversity that they may face. They also expected the members to look after, care for and support each other. In the years to come Heung Wing was to spend a lot of time with this group of friends.
When the time came to tally all the collections, Heung Wing because he was not expected to finish, ended up finishing in the top 5 in his school for the amount raised for charity. Heung Wing continued to walk annually in this event whenever they had it, in more comfortable shoes of course.