Well, this weekend’s pavement pounding for me has now come and gone, and while I increased my mileage by another 15 miles while walking between Sarasota and Manatee Counties, it wasn’t the miles that were impactful this weekend, it was the people we met. We began our day on the satellite campus of the University of South Florida/Manatee/Sarasota with a meeting and visit with Representative Doug Holder. Doug not only came to be supportive, but came to walk a few miles with us. Doug got an opportunity not only to visit Lauren and I, but with the folks who operate the rape crisis center.
We have met a lot of people along the way, but most significant on Saturday was a woman and her 3-year old son who pulled their SUV up alongside of us as we were walking toward the Manatee Glens Sexual Assault Treatment Center in Manatee County. She stopped right in the middle of the road to applaud us and to express to us how important it was from her perspective that we were doing what we were doing. She began to relate a story to Lauren and me about a friend of hers. Tears welled up in her eyes and then began to roll down her cheek. What she did not realize was that we understood the story was more about her than a friend, she continued to go on as we listened. Lauren and I urged that she and her young son consider joining us at Manatee Glens, and she said she would try. What was most interesting about this woman was that she had seen us an hour earlier as she was driving to get breakfast and decided to come track us down to talk to us. This woman is really a lot about what our walk is intended to do. While we work to raise awareness to end childhood sexual abuse, it is also about empowering individuals to have the strength and the courage “to tell.” It is about empowering individuals to know that they are not alone out there, and that there is a place and there are people for them to talk to and help them heal. It was truly an amazing moment and just another example of why we do what we are doing. By the way, as Lauren and I were addressing the crowd at Manatee Glens, the woman and her son in fact took us up on our invitation and showed up at the Center. She was simply a person wanting and waiting to tell someone her story.
When we reached the sexual assault treatment center known as Manatee Glens, we were greeted by 100 plus individuals cheering us on as we addressed the crowd and talked about why we were there. All in all, a great day. Today, Lauren headed back to the East Coast of Florida and walked north from Boca Raton to Melbourne where she will begin a western leg toward Orlando and Tampa. Keep following us.