With a shot of cortisone, five ibuprofens and walking poles to help his sore back, 90-year-old Gil Erskine of Hartsdale started his 10-mile hike at the Hitchcock Presbyterian Church . After five miles on the Bronx River Parkway trail, he headed back and later celebrated with a vodka tomic.
Erskine created "Hike for Our Churches" after his Greenville pastor sermonized about having a mission in life. After some thought, Erskine felt that churches were largely underappreciated for all their work, so he set out on a mission to give back.
"We have a program that's here to stay," said Erskine. "We are not a flash in the pan. We are helping the institutions we believe in and they are welcoming our efforts. Not only that, but we have great people to carry on. And we have the medium, hiking, to match our purpose."
The hikes occur twice a year, in May and September, raising money for houses of worship in New York. Thirty hikers partook in the May 2011 expedition, double the amount of that in September 2010, and raised nearly $10,000.
Born in 1921, Erskine is a World War II veteran who served as a glider pilot from 1942 to 1946. In the 1980s, Erskine founded the Westchester Triathlon and served as director of the White Plains YMCA . In addition, he was president of the Fox Meadow Tennis Club . He also attended Princeton University and New York University Law School.
A lifelong athlete, Erskine now stays fit by using a stationary bike or walking around a track. In his younger years, he played hockey, football, swimming and cross country.
"I'm fighting back problems now, but I stay in pretty good shape," said Erskine. "And I'm strong."
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