Walking in my hometown of Panama City brings a flood of good and bad memories. A survivor of sexual abuse myself, my childhood memories aren’t all good. But that’s what made the walk so significant yesterday.
Several hundred walkers joined us for a windy, chilly stretch along Back Beach Road. Some came from as far away as Tennessee, while other locals sacrificed part of the weekend for a 16-mile walk. Along the way I pointed out to Lauren neighborhoods I lived in, places I got in trouble or did crazy things. I noticed a teenager walking with us, bubbly and enthusiastic about the walk. She’s a survivor, approaching graduation and powering through high school. As we walked she picked a few azaleas, handed them to another woman saying “to the prettiest woman on the walk.” Lauren pointed out that was her counselor. Oh the freedom from shame that young woman is experiencing! I never had that courage as a teenager, and still grapple with my past. But much like Lauren, she is facing her demons and encouraging others along the way.
This is why we walk.
– Cathy Schroeder, Executive Director of Lauren’s Kids