John Cushman was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana on January 14, 1956. He is the fourth child of nine children. At the age of four, the Cushman family moved to Pittsford, New York. Growing up in a big family was always an adventure with plenty of siblings for sledding, ice skating, and snow fort building in the long winters; and come summertime, long days filled with baseball, kick the can, red light green light, and summer playground.
While his six sisters, The Cushman Sisters, performed and recorded, John and his brother Jeffrey participated in community theatre productions with Theatre East in Pittsford. His favorite production was Life with Father, where the brothers took turns playing Harlan Day. The brothers had their hair dyed red for the production. John’s school friends were quite surprised at his red hair!
When John was 11, the family moved to Long Island, New York. The Cushman Sisters were recording with MGM Records and at the suggestion of the VP of MGM records, the three brothers were added, and along with the six sisters, a family rock band, Sibling Rivalry, was born. They performed and recorded for ten years in New York and, with another family move, San Diego, California.
John play the drums in high school musicals in San Diego. His favorite musical was A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. After graduating high school, John worked for Pizza Hut in San Diego and also worked as a bouncer at Spanky’s Saloon. He continued playing drums.
In July 1977, John (age 21) was in Palm Springs for the weekend with friends and started talking about doing some sort of charity walk for the Annual Labor Day Jerry Lewis, Muscular Dystrophy (MDA) Telethon. Several ideas were discussed and John decided that this walk would need to be grand, a real attention grabber. When he returned to San Diego a few days later, he talked with his friend John Monte, who loved the idea. He borrowed his car and drove to the Southland Company (7-11) Corporate Offices and spoke with Ken Slaught about his upcoming walk from New York Times Square to San Diego, CA Mission Beach for MDA. Ken was so excited that he and John immediately drove to the San Diego MDA office to pitch John’s walk. They pitched the walk to the MDA Board members who loved the idea. When asked when he would start the walk, John replied to the Board that he would be starting his walk the following week on Wednesday, July 13th high noon. John’s walk goal was to arrive on Telethon Weekend, which he beat, as he arrived on Wednesday, August 31, 1977 at 6:22pm.
John gained sponsorships from: 7-11, MDA, Adventure-16, Dean Photo, Jim Sporting Goods, KCBQ, San Diego Union Tribune, and a promotion company. Southland/7-11 provided donation sheets and posters at all 7-11 stores nationwide. John called into KCBQ daily to report on his journey. 7-11 coordinated John’s nightly hotels.
John completed the walk from New York Time Square to Mission Beach in San Diego, CA in 49 Days, 6 Hours, 14 Minutes. His family joined him in the last part of his journey from Alpine, CA to Mission Beach with the big plunge into Pacific Ocean.
John raised $160,000 for Muscular Dystrophy on his 1977 Walk with only three days of serious advance planning. This would be the equivalent of $637,236 in 2017 dollars.
Wow! I cannot believe it has been 40 years since my 1977 New York Time Square to Mission Beach, San Diego Walk for Muscular Dystrophy. That was quite an experience and I am pleased to have helped Jerry’s Kids.
Since 1977, I have worked as a business executive while raising seven children. I have developed a passion for American history over these many years and have written several books and seven screenplays.
Reflecting now, in 2017, and as I look back on my life, as well as looking forward, it is now time to lace-up for another cause - Diabetes - for the American Diabetes Association!
Working in conjunction with companies to further their goals in research for a cure, while also improving the lives of those who deal with diabetes and its impact on a daily basis, it is my hope that the 2017 Walk for the American Diabetes Association will help contribute funds to aid in their on-going research as well as the innovations which improve patient care. The 2017 Walk will also bring attention to organ donation, which is vital to those afflicted with the devastating long-term impact of diabetes.
My family has also been personally impacted by diabetes. My eldest son at the age of seven-years old was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes. As a father, I had to watch my seven-year-old son inject daily shots of insulin as well as the new routine of checking his blood three times a day. He did not comprehend that his life changed forever on that day. I was devastated for my son and like all parents, concerned about his future.
Diabetes impacts the child physically and psychologically and also the family emotionally, financially, and there is an ever-present awareness that something could happen to him…as it has…
Please join me on my 2017 Walk for American Diabetes Association starting Labor Day 2017 from Washington D.C. at the Washington Monument to Mission Beach, San Diego, California as I do my small part to raise not only funds for Diabetes research but also awareness that 1 in every 3 Americans is impacted by Diabetes.