My name is Julie LePore, I am a rising senior and this will be my third year participating in Road for Hope. Freshman year, I was looking for a chance to get more involved and try something new. As I went through my emails one day, one caught my eye with the line "Road for Hope: Walk 130 Miles for Local Charities." I decided to take a chance and try it and I'm so glad I did. It has been the most challenging yet rewarding experience I've had in my years at Saint Anselm and has impacted me more than I could have ever imagined.
This program could not have a better name because Road for Hope is just that – a walk helping to spread hope to the charities and people we support and the communities we pass through. One of the most gratifying moments for me from last year's walk happened early in the week when we stopped for lunch.
A woman from the town we were passing through stopped to tell us about her mother who was ill and had been housebound for months. She told us how her mother saw us walking by her house and heard us singing and it made her the happiest she'd been since becoming sick.
Instances like this validate that this program is more than just making donations to charities but is also about raising awareness for the charities and spreading positivity along the way.
When I tell people about my plans to walk 130 miles at the end of the summer, they always want to know why? Why would 40 college students voluntarily spend eight days walking miles, subjecting their feet to blisters and going without beds, showers and the comforts of home?
Every walker has different reasons that draw them to Road for Hope and keep them motivated when they're facing another hill up ahead. It's hard to speak about the experience in a way that does it any justice, but I usually tell people about the children I've met at St. Charles Children's Home, one of the charities we support.
These children have dealt with abuse and lived through things that are unfathomable for most adults, yet they still smile and laugh as if they haven't dealt with hardship. I walk to help these children receive the resources they need and deserve, I walk for the volunteers who devote their lives to helping these charities carry out their missions, and I walk for the woman who is housebound and others like her who cannot walk miles themselves.
Even though Road for Hope is a physically and emotionally draining week, I welcome every blister and the feeling of exhaustion. It's validation that in a small way, we're helping those in our communities better their lives and in turn it's improved our own lives. I've learned to appreciate everything, from my supportive family to the food on the dinner table, because not everyone is fortunate enough to have these things.
This year will be bittersweet since it will be my final year walking, but I am so happy that Road for Hope has managed to reach out to so many organizations and people over the years. I'm looking forward to spending the last eight days of summer vacation with my fellow walkers, hitting the road and helping to make a difference!