Wilderness Heals

Thank you for visiting the Wilderness Heals blog. Wilderness Heals is an all-women, three-day annual pledge hike that benefits the Elizabeth Stone House (ESH), a Boston-based emergency shelter, transitional housing program, and therapeutic community that provides services to women and children who are escaping violence and overcoming trauma. By encouraging hikers to set challenging physical, emotional, and financial goals, Wilderness Heals mirrors the experiences of hundreds of women who have sought help from the Stone House. Committing to hike is a way to grow personally while simultaneously standing in solidarity with women of the Stone House and women everywhere who are working to overcome the effects of violence in their lives.
Wilderness Heals 2011 will take place July 15-17, 2011. Registration materials may be downloaded here.
Go here to view the 2011 routes, and visit our Who's Who page to meet this year's team leaders and Recruitment Committee members.
Want to learn more? Visit our list of Frequently Asked Questions.
Still have questions? Contact Erika Whyte, Wilderness Heals event coordinator, at 781-726-0551 or ewhyte@elizabethstone.org.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

My Husband Wouldn't Take a Hike, So I Decided To...

It has been nearly eight years since 56-year-old Mary Walsh fled an abusive relationship. Raised in Charlestown, Massachusetts, Mary moved to Japan to teach English after college; while there, she met a Japanese man, whom she married. Twelve years later, the couple relocated to the United States, and Mary realized the danger of living with an increasingly abusive husband. She sought help at an advocacy agency for victims of domestic violence, and she hasn't seen her ex-husband since.

Today, the six-year Wilderness Heals veteran continues to speak out against domestic violence and raise awareness within the Boston community. One of the ways in which she does so is through the Wilderness Heals Hike. Here, Mary shares her story.

Now that the days are getting longer, I find my thoughts turning to the mountains and this year's Wilderness Heals Hike. My first Hike was in 2001, and it's hard to believe that this will be my seventh year hiking.

I first learned of Wilderness Heals from my domestic violence advocate, who had been a team leader in the early days of the Hike. Even though my mountain climbing experience had been very sporadic---a few autumn hikes in the Whites in college, an annual pilgrimage up Mt. Washington until my mid-30s, and a few hikes in the Japanese Alps (where I lived for 25 years)--she assured me that the Hike accommodates women of all levels of ability.

My major concern when deciding to do the Hike was fundraising. Although I'm still not entirely comfortable asking people for money, I always remind myself that I'm asking people to help the women and children of the Stone House, and that if you don't ask, they can't give.

It also helps to have a hook. The night before my first Hike, I made up a slogan and taped it to my hat. Today, I have an official hat with that same slogan embroidered on it. It says, "My Husband Wouldn't Take a Hike, So I Decided To..." I wear my hat when I'm in fundraising mode, and when people laugh, I tell them the reason for my hat and ask for a contribution. The hat usually brings in an extra $200 a year. Once, someone asked me if my hat was expensive. "Yes," I replied. "It cost 25 years of my life." People's generosity has been one of the many surprises of fundraising. Many women have opened up and told me their stories of successful domestic violence survival, and although they are not inclined to hike, they are very happy to contribute.

For me, one of the best parts of doing the Hike is training season. It's a great way to get in hiking shape and to meet other hikers. Many are repeat hikers, and it's good to catch up on what everyone's been doing. Training hikes begin when the mountains are still bare with patches of snow, and from week to week, you can enjoy watching them transform as spring takes a firm hold.

When I signed up for my first Hike, I never imagined that it would become a natural part of my yearly schedule. It has been a meaningful way to transform a negative experience into a positive one. People have already started asking me when this year's Hike is and why they haven't received a pledge letter. There are probably as many reasons for doing the Hike as there are women hiking! So, from where ever your motivation stems, I hope everyone on the Hike has a memorable Wilderness Heals in 2007.

--Mary Walsh

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