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Chappaqua Family Starts 200-Mile Walk in Memory of Husband, Father

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The Brenneman family is currently in the midst of a 200-mile walk from Portugal to Spain to raise money for sarcoma research to honor their husband and father, David Brenneman, who died of the rare cancer in 2013.

Twice in the past eight years Mina Brenneman has completed a long-distance walk in Europe.

In 2016, Brenneman finished the 500-mile Camino Frances from St. Jean-Pied-du-Port in France to the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral in Santiago, Spain. Last year, she did the 200-mile walk from Porto, Portugal to the cathedral.

On Monday, she embarked on the second journey once again, but this time it will have even greater meaning. She is making the trek for the first time with her three children – oldest son, Will, 18, 17-year-old AJ, her younger son, and daughter Maggie, 14.

With just one day of rest scheduled for this Saturday, the family from Chappaqua will be walking as far as 20 miles a day until they complete the walk on July 4.

“You have to be really, really committed because it’s very easy to let yourself think, ‘Let me take a cab,’” Brenneman said.

The Brennemans aren’t traveling across the ocean for a thrill-seeking adventure. Mina and her children are taking the walk in honor of her late husband and her children’s father, David, who died in 2013 from sarcoma, rare types of cancers that can attack bones, muscle, tissue, vessels or nerves. David was 36 at the time of his death.

They are also raising money for the Sarcoma Foundation of America (SFA), in hopes researchers can find more effective treatments or a cure. About 7,000 of the roughly 16,000 new cases of sarcoma in the United States each year ends in death, according to the SFA.

There is a special significance for the Brennemans and a reason why more than a thousand people set out on the route they are taking each day. For centuries, people from throughout Europe and many other places from around the globe take the walk as part of a religious pilgrimage. The Santiago de Compostela Cathedral is considered the third most visited Holy Place of Christianity, after Jerusalem and Rome.

For the family, David’s brother, Michael, lived in Portugal for several years, but has since passed away. They will take the route that is mainly along the coast, Mina said.

“I’m have a strong understanding going into this, having to deal with the fact that you’re going to hate yourself for walking,” AJ said.

Having lost his father at just six years old, it would have been difficult for any child to imagine what life would be like without their dad. AJ said around the house he sometimes feels his father’s presence but had to come to the realization that he would never see him again.

In addition to making the Portugal to Spain walk in 2016 and last year, Mina Brenneman has also climbed to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro.

“Since then, I’ve always wanted to do anything in my power to help find a cure for this unforgiving disease,” AJ wrote on a blog. “My mom, similarly, embarked on several seemingly impossible challenges to raise money for a cure.”

Mina said that David, who was an attorney before transitioning into finance, was fit and healthy when he was diagnosed in 2012 with sarcoma. David battled for 15 months before passing away in the summer of 2013.

“He was somebody who was kind of very quiet and low-key, but really behind that was an absolute powerhouse of intellect, of humor, of drive, of athletic ability, and all of that,” she said.

One of the few memories AJ has of his dad was his father taking for a ride in his sports car, a treat that AJ cherishes to this day.

The decision to remain in Chappaqua following David’s death was made after the outpouring of kindness and support from the community, from the time David was diagnosed until after his death.

“We didn’t do anything to initiate,” Mina said. “The people around us, just showed up and did it and that continued on for the 15 months in treatment and then after he was gone.”

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Correction: In the original posting of this article, it incorrectly stated that Mina Brenneman had completed the 200-mile walk twice before. Her first walk was the Camino Frances. The Examiner regrets the error.

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