Do It Myself Blog – Glenda Watson Hyatt

Motivational Speaker

Going the Distance to Conquer the Rocky Steps

Filed under: Motivation — by at 12:46 am on Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Philadelphia City HallAfter my first red-eye flight, followed by my first significantly delayed, and, ultimately, cancelled flight, I finally landed in Philadelphia on the afternoon of Friday, July 27th.

My journey to the City of Brotherly Love actually began a few years earlier when, on a rainy Saturday afternoon, Darrell and I sat at the kitchen table and watched a Rocky movie marathon on Darrell’s laptop. Something about the scene where Rocky runs up the steps, which I later learned were at Philadelphia’s Museum of Art, with others joining him sparked something within me.

A little voice whispered, “I want to do that!” My initial response was “Yeah, right. Sure. How the heck am I going to do that? Get real.” I didn’t even tell Darrell because it was too crazy; and I’ve told him some pretty crazy stuff over the years. The thing is, once that little voice says something, unhearing it is not an option.

Fast forward to March 2010: I was in San Diego to present at the 26th Annual International Technology & Persons with Disabilities Conference (CSUN 2010). While exploring the Exhibit Hall and other displays, I came across a table of information about ISAAC: the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication. I hadn’t even heard of ISAAC until that moment, which I thought was odd since I’m was now using my iPad for communication and was being drawn into the AAC community. I also learned their 15th Biennial Conference was to be held in Pittsburgh in July 2012. The young volunteer gave me a flyer about the conference and said, “Hope to see you in Pittsburgh.” Something about her genuine tone of voice planted another seed.

Given my limited American geography, I knew, at least, that Pittsburgh and Philadelphia were in the same State. Close enough. I quietly added “Climb the stairs at Philadelphia Museum of Art with the spirit of Rocky Balboa” to my bucket list more than a year ago.

Since the thought of attending ISAAC was now zinging around inside my head, I figured I might as well contribute to the conference conversation. I spent weeks writing a presentation proposal and submitted it. I didn’t hear anything. Then, with the deadline for submissions only two hours away, I decided to submit a second proposal, which was a quick copy-n-paste job from previous content I had written and I slapped on the cheesy title “The New AAC: Glenda’s Life-Changing Story Starring the iPad”. Wouldn’t you know it: the quick n dirty submission was accepted. Is there a lesson here?

I now had a reason to be in Pittsburgh. What was a few extra hundred miles and a few extra hundred dollars to stop by Philadelphia first?

On May 17th, 2012, I wrote a blog post to put “out there” my crazy idea of climbing the steps at Philadelphia’s Museum of Art in the spirit of Rocky Balboa. What followed was a flurry of tweets and emails: a tweet by my web accessibility colleague and friend John Foliot led to Kel Smith putting the wish-granting organization Wish Upon A Hero in touch with me. From there, Director of Wish Granting JamieLynn Storch worked her magic. People were coming from all directions to be involved. Plans were put into place. It was very exciting and somewhat overwhelming, and to think it all started with a seemingly crazy idea.

Even though I arrived at the Philadelphia airport three hours late, Wish Upon a Hero founder Dave Girgenti and Director of Programs Ryan Rendfry were there, as planned, to pick me up in the wish-granting hummer. Yes, a hummer!

Glenda in her scooter, sitting beside the decked out Wish Upon a Hero hummer

Le Meriden Hotel in PhiladelphiaI checked into Le Meriden, a posh boutique hotel in the heart of downtown and a mere mile away from the Museum of Art. I would definitely stay there again, if given a chance, because it was so nice not needing to fight with a so-called accessible room. The hotel gets physical accessibility.

Given that I hadn’t had an actual meal in I don’t know long, I then went searching for food, which is always a daunting task when alone in an unfamiliar city. Unfortunately, because of my late arrival, I missed the Amish sticky buns at the Reading Terminal Market, as highly recommended by my friend Char James-Tanny. However, I did happen across the Italian restaurant Maggiano’s, which seemed a fitting connection to the Italian Stallion, and with Glenda-friendly pasta on the menu. Bonus! I loaded up on carbs for energy for the next day, but decided to forgo drinking the six raw eggs the next morning; I wasn’t aiming for that much of an authentic re-enactment.

Not only was I famished, but I was also very thirsty. When I travel, I limit fluid intake because I do not have easy, if any, access, to a washroom while in the air. And, my unexpected extended trip meant an extended time without much to drink. With a glass of iced tea and a glass of water on the go, I was a two-fisted drinker that night!

With it still light out after supper, I went on a short photo wheel around the area — something I had forgotten I had done until I got home and went through my photos. (Yes, it was a seemingly long trip!)

At the corner of 16th Street and Benjamin Franklin Parkway, I was surprised to see what I assumed (and later confirmed) to be the Museum of Art. It was humongous! I was so tempted to go a few blocks further to get a closer look, but I didn’t want to spoil anything for the next morning. Besides, I still had to finish the email interview for the Philadelphia Inquirer reporter.

Philadelphia Museum of Art from afar at dusk

The next morning began rather early, especially given the three hour time difference. But I didn’t mind: excitement was building!

My walk along the Ben Franklin Parkway was pleasant and reminded me of my day in Washington DC — minus security noticeable everywhere.

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Breakfast ended up being a few bites of a dry croissant and couple sips of juice across from the museum; not quite what I had envisioned before such a physical activity. Mysteriously, the croissant, juice and bottle of water then disappeared somewhere in the excitement. That’s how it goes sometimes.

Glenda sitting at the bottom of the Rocky steps
"I am going to do what? Are you kidding me?"

But seriously, those steps are rather intimidating when staring up at them. For a nanosecond, I questioned what I was about to do. When the newspaper reporter asked how I was feeling right before we started, I replied, “Nervous.” Now was not the time to trip over my own feet, which has been known to happen.

The first step I took, with H.E.R.O. (Hero Emergency Response Operation) Justin Jack and Ryan, was rather wobbly and I am sure everyone was thinking, “Oh, ya, this is going to take a while.” I was certainly thinking that.

Justin, Glenda and Ryan taking the first steps

But once the Rolling Trumpet Ensemble from Rowan University struck the first few notes of the Rocky theme song “Gonna Fly Now” — yes, a band! —

Rolling Trumpet Ensemble from Rowan University

and I found my feet…I felt like I floated up the first two levels!

After a quick sip….

A young Rocky Spirit team member holding a bottle of water while Glenda takes a sip

Rocky Spirit author Felice Cantatore and Rocky impersonator Mike Kunda helped me the rest of the way. (Does Mike look like Rocky or what?!)

Felice Cantatore, Glenda Watson Hyatt and Mike Kunda climbing the Rocky steps

An increasing number of supporters cheered with each step I took…

An onlooker holding a sign "Go Glenda Go"

This video shot by one of the 40-50 (or more) bystanders captures a majority of the climb:

Apparently we only took 7 minutes to reach the top of the 72 steps. (Karen, Craig and I took half an hour to reach the top of the 81 stairs at the Robson Square Zipline. We must have stopped for coffee along the way.)

Standing atop the Rocky steps with the Wish Upon a Hero team

(Yes, you do see my scooter in the right side of the photo. Three big, strong guys from the Rocky Spirit team carried my scooter up the Rocky steps so that I had a place to sit once I reached the top. The wheelchair ramp went only so far.)

Once I had nearly caught my breath again, the reporter asked how I was feeling in the moment. I uttered, “Awesome” mainly because it was the easiest word to say. But, in actuality, the word was “Indescribable!”

Indescribable because so many small moments had been pieced together to create that one moment and because so many people had played a role. I now had a view of Philadelphia that I had only seen in a 33 year old movie. How many people get the opportunity to experience that?

In my lifetime I have always made my own path, taken the road less travel, mainly because there was no one out in front leading the way for me. For a brief moment, it was nice to stand in someone else’s shoes — or footsteps — to absorb everything that Rocky represents.

Glenda standing in Rocky's footprints

One of my favourite photos of the day…

Mike Kunda, Glenda Watson Hyatt and Chuck Wepner standing at the top of the Rocky steps

…standing between Rocky impersonator and author of Cue the Rocky Music, Mike Kunda, and boxing champion who went fifteen rounds with Mohammed ALI, Chuck Wepner, the inspiration for the Rocky movies. Can life get any better than this?!

Apparently, it can! After being in town for less than 48 hours, Kristin Holmes’ article about my climb appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer. The hotel concierge gave me his Sunday newspaper to treasure.

I would like to sincerely thank everyone — many of whom were mentioned here, many more were not — who were involved in making this day indescribable. I am truly appreciative and will cherish the memories in my heart for many, many years to come. Thank you.

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If you enjoyed this post, consider buying me a chai tea latte. Thanks kindly.

Random Posts


  1. Do It Myself Blog – Glenda Watson Hyatt » Working Only 4 Hours a Day Means Learning to Say the Dreaded Word “No”
  2. Do It Myself Blog – Glenda Watson Hyatt » Going the Distance: An Interview with Rocky Spirit Author
  3. Do It Myself Blog – Glenda Watson Hyatt » I Just Have to Share This! My Favourite Day of 2012


Comment by Karen Mardahl

August 22, 2012 @ 2:09 am

I’ve been so looking forward to your blog post on this adventure. This was great. The music started playing in my head as you described making your way up the stairs.

Go, Glenda, Go!!! You’re a champion!

Comment by Ricky Buchanan

August 22, 2012 @ 3:09 am

OMG this is completely cool!!! I’d seen your facebook posts and tweets and was waiting for the blog post and it’s AWESOME to see the video – I got quite teared up 🙂

You are one amazing woman, my friend.

Comment by Sherry (city chic on a farm)

August 22, 2012 @ 7:21 am

Thanks for touching my heart which brought tears to my eyes. So happy for you! Way to go Glenda!!

Comment by Char James-Tanny

August 22, 2012 @ 9:45 am

I have tears in my eyes after watching the video. That was just amazing, and I really wish I could have been there to watch! (Having seen the video, being there in spirit just isn’t enough.)

Next time we’re together I’ll get you a sticky bun. It might not be Amish, but I’ll make sure it’s good 🙂

Comment by Kel Smith

August 22, 2012 @ 12:48 pm

Incredible. My only regret for this experience is that I wasn’t in town to see it in person. You’re an inspiration to all of us — so glad things worked out with the Hero folks.

Comment by Karen Putz (@DeafMom)

August 22, 2012 @ 3:13 pm

Loved reading this– felt like I was there with you on those steps! Ok, what’s next on the bucket list?

Comment by Spashionista

August 22, 2012 @ 5:45 pm

I’m so glad you got to do this, Glenda. Nice to know another fellow CP’er who doesn’t let it get in their way. I strongly suspect you and I would come close to world domination if we ever combined forces ;-P
I’m hoping I have as positive an experience when I take my trip to see the Mucha exhibit in Iowa.
BTW That cardinal shade of purple is your color!
Congrats again. What’s next?

Comment by Barbara @therextras

August 23, 2012 @ 10:47 am

A GREAT story so well told!! You play a heroic role in my life, Glenda! I think of you often when I work with children with CP.

Comment by Trisha

August 27, 2012 @ 10:26 am

This is so amazing! I’m so glad you got all the way to the top, and in only 7 minutes! That’s a truly inspiring story and it really makes a person’s heart melt.

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