When I was 19 I read an article in the school newspaper about a student who had hiked the whole Appalachian Trail during summer break. Up until that point I don’t think it had ever occurred to me that you could hike the whole trail in a single trip. In high school I had backpacked along part of the trail with my Boy Scout troop, and in college I had taken day hikes on it. But packing the whole way – from Georgia to Maine – sounded simultaneously like insanity and a really great way to spend a summer (or more)! I wish I could find an electronic copy of it in the ether-web somewhere. I cut out that article and kept it on my wall for a long time as a far-off dream.
Fast-forward 12 years. After getting two BS degrees, two MS degrees, an internship, a full-time job, a dog, and married my dream will become reality. I’ll be doing my own thru-hike in 2012. This will be the story of my hike.
Since I’ll be temporarily leaving my job to do the hike, I figure I need to make it worth my while – or, at least, worth someone’s while. A little bit about myself – I got all of my degrees at Virginia Tech. On April 16, 2007 I was smack in the middle of my last degree there when a student shot 32 other students before taking his own life. Although I was safely across campus in my own class, that day changed my life in many ways. I don’t remember all of that day very well, but I do remember that morning and the days that followed.
One of the things that sticks out to me now is that therapy dogs were sent to help us through. I didn’t see them while they were there, but I have a dog now. Her name is Miranda and she is a complete goofball. I know how much she has brightened my life, whether by helping me relax on rough days, or just getting me out of the house when I feel like being lazy. It is amazing what dogs can do to change our emotional state, and I’m glad someone thought to send them to Virginia Tech to help us when our emotional states were in need.
Time to bring this back around to my hike – to give me some motivation, to keep you interested, and to give my hike some meaning my goal is to raise $16,000 for Delta Society. They are the primary organization (that I know of) for licensing therapy dogs and their handlers. Their mission (pulled from their website) is “to help lead the world in advancing human health and well-being through positive interactions with animals. We help people throughout the world become healthier and happier by incorporating therapy, service and companion animals into their lives.” They are also a larger organization so they are listed on Charity Navigator where you can do a little research, if that’s what floats your boat.
I hope you enjoy following my adventure. If you do, please donate and pass the word along so others can follow.