September 6, 2018
By Annie Nguyen
This past April, when Jenny Devlin started to read stories about the separation of asylum-seeking parents and children at the border, she was outraged. She left messages at all her political representatives’ offices but still felt her voice wasn’t enough to effect change. She searched for an issue close to home where she might have a bigger impact, but was at a loss about what could be done in a meaningful and respectful way.
The Lake City resident loved the international diversity in her community, as well as where she worked at the junction of Pioneer Square and the International District. But having never gotten involved with refugee and immigrant issues before, she felt she lacked the cultural competency to effectively help those she wanted to support. This left her feeling powerless. Then one morning, the idea hit her: she could help by leveraging what she was already doing.
“Walking has always been my favorite way to deal with things,” Jenny said. “I had surgery for a blown disc in my back five years ago, so walking keeps my back happy.”
In January, she logged her first four-mile walk. Whenever there was a nice day in the forecast on a weekend, she’d go ten percent farther than the last walk. Most of her walks started right out her front door and went either north or south on the Burke Gilman Trail. Week after week, she went farther, until she eventually walked 41 miles around the bottom of Lake Washington from across the 520 Bridge.
It was on that walk when she got the idea to turn her Big 50 Mile Walk into a fundraiser for Refugee Women’s Alliance. Earlier, Jenny had read the profiles of three, what she called “ordinary,” people like herself who had walked 100,000 steps in a day. Jenny decided she could work up to that, roughly 50 miles, and raise funds for the organizations helping the communities she wanted to support.
“I first heard about ReWA several years ago because a bunch of friends of mine work for or with a variety of non-profits,” Jenny said, “and then I noticed [ReWA’s] name on the new pre-school in Lake City. So, I read more about what you do on your website and thought, ‘Oh wow, these folks do it all, that’s fantastic!’ I knew I wanted to support ReWA.”
She sent ReWA a message on Facebook to let us know of her plan. Then she set up a Facebook Fundraiser to promote her fundraiser: Long Walk for Refugee Women’s Alliance. She started posting pictures of her walks and promoting ReWA’s work on her social media and received a lot of support from her friends, both online and in person.
On August 12, after 17 increasingly longer walks, Jenny completed her 53-mile walk (102,954 steps) around Lake Washington in 18 hours and 45 minutes.
Here, at ReWA, we support individuals like Jenny who set out to make a difference in the way they know how. Not all of us can commit time, money, or resources, but each of us has a way to speak out, step up, and support the organizations that further the causes we care about. Today, we honor that spirit of giving and community that drove Jenny out on every walk, rain or shine, and helped her find our organization. We are so thankful and honored that Jenny had nearly one out of five of her Facebook friend donate to her cause, raising more than $5,100 for ReWA in only three weeks!
You, too, can help us make a difference – by donating, volunteering, or starting a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign of your own. To learn more, please contact Ms. Annie Nguyen at firstname.lastname@example.org.