• Tom Hanlon

Game Changer Walks

Zoe Richard walking laps at the YMCA of Bristol

At River’s Way, we have a core group of young adults with differing abilities and we call them our Game Changers because they change the way that we look at the world!

One of the ways that they do this is through their commitment to walking.

One of our Game Changers, Zoe Richard, was out on the Virginia High School track last week with her brother Gage. Gage videoed Zoe as she trudged along.

It was a gloomy day and the wind was blowing and you could hear the sound over her brother’s phone. Every so often, Zoe would smile.

Zoe’s mom says she walks a mile most every day at that track.

Zoe made several friends at the VMS Walking Program

Zoe graduated from Virginia High School and when schools were open she participated in our walking programs at Virginia High.

Prior to COVID-19, Matt Kyle, our Program Director, would take Zoe and other River’s Way Game Changers into high schools and middle schools to walk with students in physical education classes.

Zoe was a big hit in these classes and she was also an inspiration to others since she would often walk up to three miles each day.

Game Changers like Zoe set the tone for walking and students of all abilities would follow their lead, with many of them walking up to two miles in a 45 minute gym class period.

Janine Myatt and her son walking their dogs

There are other walkers in River’s Way circles. My wife Carolyn walks nearly every day with one of our dogs. My daughter Annie and our two grandchildren usually begin their days walking with their new puppy. They run into neighbors who are regular walkers including Chris Hess, our parish priest at St. Anne’s. Father Chris walks on a daily basis with his dog Skillet.

One of our board members, Janine Myatt, walks every afternoon in the neighborhood with one or two of her dogs.

It’s always good to know that other River’s Way board members are out there as well.

Judy Parker and family taking a walk

Gwen Ellis walks both sides of Bristol. Harvey Anderson, an AT thru hiker, hikes at Steele Creek Park. Judy Parker loves to hike with family members at state and local parks. Matt Kyle, our program director, walks around his house and he hikes to climbing sites on the weekends.

I usually walk for three miles each morning after a cup of coffee and a bit of reading. I don’t always feel like walking, but I usually make it out the door. I sense that I would let our community of walkers down if I didn’t make the effort. I think of Zoe and our other Game Changers, I think of our board members and my family members, and I think about two of our participants in wheelchairs who get out there and walk whether it be around a parking lot or on a road in the neighborhood.

So this is what it comes down to. I am part of a community of walkers and I picture Zoe walking around that track and I say to myself, “If she can do it, I can do it.” I want to be part of this community, a community that is composed of people of all abilities from all walks of life. People like Zoe are at the heart of this community. Like me, she doesn’t always want to walk, but she gets out there and sets an example. That example inspires all of us and we all benefit. During this COVID-19 time, it would be so easy to just sit in our houses and let the time slip by. We don’t though. We are part of a walking community and we are all the better for it!

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