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.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Who's Who: A Guide to the Women Behind the Hike

Wilderness Heals would not be possible without the support of a large community of organizers, volunteers, team leaders--and, of course--you, the hiker! There are, however, a few names that tend to frequently pop up throughout the season. Here's a list to help hikers sort out who’s who.

Administrative Staff

Amy Howard: Amy is the associate director of development and the primary contact for the Hike. She schedules and facilitates all hiker meetings, organizes all hiker updates, and is responsible for the overall fundraising and “friend raising” strategies behind Wilderness Heals and the Elizabeth Stone House. Hikers may call Amy with any questions they have regarding the Stone House, fundraising and donations, and the Hike in general. Prior to joining the Stone House in August of 2008, Amy worked in development for a reproductive health and rights organization in Washington, D.C. She is thrilled to be a part of the Stone House and the Wilderness Heals team and is very thankful to have such an active and fun group of Wilderness Heals volunteers and hikers.

Amanda Green: Amanda began working at the Stone House in February of 2008 as the development assistant. Recently, she was promoted to development and community relations coordinator. She is responsible for in-kind donations, tracking donor giving, community relations, the annual You Matter! event, and she coordinates the holiday gift drive. Additionally, she is responsible for tracking all pledges made for Wilderness Heals and helps organize the logistics of the event.

Team Leader Coordinators
Team leader coordinators (TLC) work with Amy to organize Wilderness Heals. Their responsibilities include, but are not limited to: choosing the routes, compiling Hike materials, and overseeing the team leaders throughout the training season and during the three-day event.

Liz Varney: This will be Liz's fifth year participating in Wilderness Heals, her third year serving as a team leader, and her second year serving as a team leader coordinator. She is very excited about this year's new hiking options. "Each year poses new challenges, successes, and friendships, and I cannot wait to see what this year holds," she says. Liz's claim to fame is her famous "convenience store trail mix," which is comprised of cheddar cheese Combos, turtle Chex Mix, and mixed nuts and raisins.

Anna Wells: Anna grew up hiking in the White Mountains with her parents and brothers, and, at age 17, she participated in her first Wilderness Heals Hike with her mother. She is continually inspired by the residents and staff at the Stone House, so she returns to the Hike year after year. This will be her tenth year hiking, her sixth year serving as a team leader, and her second year serving as a team leader coordinator. She managed base camp last year because she was seven months pregnant with her first child. This summer she is incredibly excited to actually don boots and a pack and hit the trails. Anna is loving every moment of motherhood, even the moments that slowly tick by at 2 a.m., and she is looking forward to introducing her son to hiking and other outdoor activities that she loves to do with her husband and dog.

Team Leaders
Team leaders lead all training hikes, and each team leader is in charge of one team during the three-day Hike. All team leaders are experienced hikers and have participated in Wilderness Heals at least once.

Wendy Baxter: Wendy became involved with Wilderness Heals in 1997, and this will be her seventh year hiking. Even after she moved to Vermont, she continued to stay involved; she has served as a team leader for five years, served as a team leader coordinator for one, and served as base-camp coordinator for two. Wendy's favorite hikes are in Franconia Notch, especially the Lincoln-Lafayette loop. Lately, Wendy has been trying to pass on her love of hiking to her two young boys, Forrester and Hayden. Back in Vermont, she works as an art therapist at a psychiatric hospital.

Karin Downs: Wild mountain stories have been a part of Karin’s life for as long as she can remember. Her father, an Adirondack guide, told tales--tall and otherwise--as bedtime stories to rile her before she fell asleep. Hence, her dreams were always filled with impossible feats, incredible vistas, leaps over chasms, and near-death adventures. Karin transitioned from imagined to actual adventures as a teen when she began hiking in the Adirondacks. She later trekked in Nepal, first with friends, and eventually with her children. This will be Karin's fifth year hiking with Wilderness Heals, and her second year serving as a team leader. Her favorite trail food is candied ginger, and her goal for this year is to conquer Cannon Mountain without breaking her ankle.

Beth Grierson: A 10-year Wilderness Heals veteran, Beth has worn many hats--team leader (nine years), team leader coordinator (three years), and Recruitment Committee member (four years)--in her efforts to raise money and awareness for the Elizabeth Stone House. “Being able to help people face their own challenges the way the Hike has helped me face some of my own is tremendously rewarding," she says. "I’m a firm believer in the redemptive powers of dirt, rocks, and sweat, and I love introducing other women to hiking and to the Stone House.” Beth lives in Somerville with her partner, Julia, and can often be found strolling through Middlesex Fells with their dog, Augie.

Katie Kozin: This is Katie's fifth year hiking with Wilderness Heals after serving as a team leader for three years and a team leader coordinator for two. Katie enjoys the Hike for the women she meets, the cause she hikes for, and for the incredible mountain experience. A seasoned hiker, Katie loves the White Mountains and has also taken her passion for hiking all over the world, including the Peruvian Andes, the Himalayan foothills, and a climb up Mount Kilimanjaro. As a resident of Jamaica Plain, Katie feels that volunteering for the Elizabeth Stone House is a great way to support her community, while at the same time explore new territory.

Nabia Meghelli: Before participating in her first Wilderness Heals hike in 2000, Nabia had never set foot on a mountain. This will be Nabia's seventh Wilderness Heals Hike and her third time serving as a team leader. Nabia teaches third graders in Cambridge, and at least one night a week you can find her salsa dancing to her heart's content. Wilderness Heals and the Elizabeth Stone House have played a significant role in Nabia's outdoorsy growth and confidence. Despite breaking her foot last year, she managed some small hikes in the Fells and is looking forward to another year of huge hikes in the Whites. With her "new" foot and reinvigorated confidence, she is looking forward to hiking for the women of the Stone House.

Nika Stoop: Growing up in Alaska, Nika spent a large part of her childhood camping and fishing. As a kid, her family regularly drove to Mount McKinley park and marveled at the wildlife and scenery. As she got older, Nika began exploring backpacking and the backcountry on her own, but she didn't fully appreciate the power of hiking until she became involved in Wilderness Heals. Nika lives in Medford and frequently takes her dogs hiking in the Fells and in New Hampshire. "For me, hiking rejuvenates my soul," she says. "I have enjoyed the camaraderie and learned a great deal from the women who have hiked in Wilderness Heals." This will be Nika's third year hiking and her first year serving as a team leader.

Natalie Surmeli: This is Natalie's second Wilderness Heals Hike and first time serving as a team leader. Natalie loves a challenge, whether she is scaling the Great Wall of China with her three-month old daughter or hiking Mount Washington with her 62-year-old mom. Last year's Hike was physically demanding and helped her to focus on the challenges that women at the Elizabeth Stone House face. The joy of tackling that challenge with 50 other women gave her joy and strength, and she can't wait to do it again. Natalie grew up in New Hampshire and has spent nearly every summer of her life hiking in the White Mountains. The Elizabeth Stone House has given her a great reason to continue her hiking adventures.

Amanda Tweed: Amanda became involved with Wilderness Heals in 2008, after completing the AMC spring hiking and backpacking program. This year she joins Wilderness Heals as both a first-time team leader and a member of the Recruitment Committee. A native of rural Pennsylvania, she had always considered herself at home outdoors, but didn't really find her niche until last spring. Hiking up her first 4,000-footer, she quickly found herself hooked. She plans to hike all 48 4,000-footers in New Hampshire, but is in no rush to do so. Although she continues to hike with the AMC, she finds her spirit most at ease when helping other women heal from trauma and abuse through the Wilderness Heals Hike.

Vicky Waltz: Vicky grew up in Ohio, where there are cornfields aplenty, but no mountains. She become involved in Wilderness Heals shortly after moving to Boston, and has since hiked throughout New Hampshire, California, and Mexico. Three days after this year's Hike, she'll head to Oregon for a backpacking trip through Mount Hood National Forest. This will be Vicky's fifth year hiking and her second year serving as a team leader. In previous years, she served on the Recruitment Committee, and she currently manages the Wilderness Heals blog. A writer for Boston University, Vicky is also involved in the school's Alternative Spring Break program. In 2008, she chaperoned a trip to a Native American reservation in South Dakota, and this past March she went to coal-mining country in southeastern Kentucky.

Keri Watson: Keri's father instilled in her a passion for the outdoors at a young age, and she has been hiking steadily for the past few years. This is her third year participating in the Hike and her first year serving as a team leader. Keri was born and raised in Boston, and she recently moved to Quincy. She's an administrative assistant for Malden Public Schools--quite a "hike" from Quincy. She's currently earning a bachelor's degree in human service, and when she's not working or going to school, she's hanging out with her three schnauzers: two mini and one teacup. Keri constantly twirls her hair, and her very random childhood nickname is “boogerbutt."

Recruitment Committee
Members of the Wilderness Heals Recruitment Committee are responsible for organizing tabling events at local festivals and performances, leading recruitment hikes, postering fliers throughout the community, and--in general--drumming up support for the Hike. Two years ago, it launched the Wilderness Heals blog.

Beth Grierson: See above.

Jenn Guiry: Jenn is so dedicated to the Wilderness Heals Hike that three years ago, she tattooed the (now retired) Hike logo on her left bicep. You can read her story here. This will be Jenn's fifth year being involved in the Hike. She has served as a team leader and a Recruitment Committee member for two years, and in 2006 she managed base camp when an injury prevented her from hiking. A social worker, Jenn is best known for her booming voice and sarcastic sense of humor. When she's not hiking, she can often be found walking the beaches of Cape Cod with her dogs, Bailey and Connor.

Jo-Ann Lightbody: Jo-Ann got serious about hiking eight years ago, and she hikes mostly in Maine's Grafton Notch and New Hampshire's White Mountains with her husband, Brian. "I never imagined my love of hiking would connect me to fundraising for the women and children of the Stone House," she says. This will be Jo-Ann's second year hiking and it is her first year serving on the Recruitment Committee. "I am so impressed by the number of women who dedicate themselves to this Hike year after year," she says. "In fact, I've gotten a reputation among my friends for reminiscing about my Wilderness Heals experience a little too much!" Jo-Ann also enjoys skiing, snowshoeing, winter camping, kayaking, and riding her motorcycle.

Danna Steinberg: Danna has participated in Wilderness Heals for two years, and this is her first year on the Recruitment Committee. A spiritual person, Danna hikes to "experience nature's healing effects and to become one with the mountain." Her hiking adventures have taken her as far as South America and Israel. Danna lives in Brookline with her husband, Randy, and their bunnies, Riley and Lidiya. She will not be taking part in the three-day Hike this year because she and Randy are expecting their first child at the end of June.

Amanda Tweed: See above.

Sue Weil: Sue became involved in Wilderness Heals by following her girlfriend into the endeavor, and she's still hiking six years later. Sue has enjoyed time outdoors ever since she went away to camp as a child, and five years on the trails has only added to her love of the wilderness. One of her favorite aspects of the Hike is spending time with fellow hikers throughout the training season and on the three-day Hike. "Each year brings new challenges and adventures to remember -- I can't wait!" she says. This will be Sue's second year participating on the Recruitment Committee.

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