Well, the walk is over and the “high” on Wednesday is almost indescribable. Reaching the curb of the Capitol is an elation-like feeling like no other. Everyone asks, each year, “How did you feel?” and they certainly ask Lauren how she feels. I am extremely proud of the commitment that Lauren has made to making a difference in the lives of others. She’s turned one of the great tragedies a child can suffer into something better for others by working to prevent childhood sexual abuse. The emotions ran the gamut. I can tell you on Thursday, Lauren felt the impact, but she finished strong! Frankly, as strong as when she started.
On Tuesday night, as Lauren entered town to join the students from Tallahassee Community College, Florida A & M University and Florida State University, in a march to Burnett Park for a “Take Back the Night” event, I thought that was probably as good as it would get. Several hundred students came together from the three campuses for a candle lighting ceremony, and to talk about sexual assault. Poetry was read, songs were sung, and there was a speak-out by individuals as they related to their individual sexual assault experiences. I didn’t cry once, I didn’t cry twice, but I cried more times than I can remember. It was a very emotional program. It was very impactful.
The next morning, day 39, we hit the pavement at 8:00 am walking up Apalachee Parkway, heading straight to the heart of the Capitol. As you see the Capitol Building in front of you, you think about the things that are important to you, and you think about the things that you need to do to protect others. We were joined by so many of our State leaders, including the President of the Senate, Mike Haridoplos; Speaker of the House, Dean Cannon; the Attorney General, Pam Bondi; the Agricultural Commissioner, Adam Putnam; the CFO, Jeff Atwater; and the Speaker Designate of the Florida House, Will Weatherford, as well as so many legislators, child advocates, interested community leaders, and those that run our sexual assault treatment centers and child advocacy centers around the State. Also there, our bill sponsors, Representative Chris Dorworth and Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto.
As Lauren broke into a sprint, to finish the last quarter mile, it’s all you can do to choke back tears, knowing that, not only a physical journey has come to a close, but a deep and emotional one as well. As a parent of a thriving “survivor-warrior,” what a day…what a five-week period…what a remarkable 39-day journey! The lives of thousands have been impacted by Lauren’s unselfish and relentless commitment to prevent childhood sexual abuse. I am so proud!
Congratulations to my daughter, but most importantly, what a safer state we will have, because of her effort.
This is why we walk.