Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Help the Homeless Walkathon: What's Your Reason?

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We won’t lie to you—it is always cold on the morning of theFannie Mae Help the Homeless Walkathon. The event takes place annually on the Saturday morning before Thanksgiving, so it’s just about guaranteed to be cold.

But something about the cold feels inherently right. After all, our homeless neighbors are vulnerable to the cold every day and night they spend on the streets. Unlike us, they don’t have the luxury of waking up in a toasty bed and putting on a pot of coffee to enjoy a restful Saturday morning,and the cold is a potent reminder of that.

Besides, once you start walking, you’ll hardly feel the cold. You’ll be too busy soaking up the sites of the National Mall, enjoying live entertainment from local school groups and chatting with your fellow walkers. Last year, over 100 clients from our housing programs joined us for the walk.

One of those clients, June (name changed to protect privacy) supported us in last year's Walkathon, even though she was using a walker at the time. June, a resident at our Mt. Carmel House, suffers from knee trouble. But she didn’t let that stop her from participating! She wanted to walk to show her gratitude to Catholic Charities for keeping her off the streets. “I never thought I’d see myself homeless, but as life would have it, there I was…the Walkathon was what my heart told me to do.”

June will be walking to support us again this year –“without my walker!” she bragged. Thanks to therapy, she’s more mobile. And thanks to Mt. Carmel House, she has a more stable and fulfilling life. She’s looking forward to the Walkathon as a way to raise awareness about “the new face of homelessness — could be a neighbor, coworker, boss, sister, brother, niece or nephew. Don’t turn a blind eye or put your nose up, because it could be you one day.” She describes the Walkathon as a unifying experience, a time to join her community at Mt. Carmel House, the larger Catholic Charities family, and the public around one very basic reality: we all need good housing. And that kind of bonding, that sense of community, can be pretty warming.

Also proven to warm the soul: providing very real help tosomeone in need. The Fannie Mae Help the Homeless Walkathon is a huge source of funding for our housing programs year after year. Last year, it brought in over $50,000—this money came from walkers across the region, whether they walked with us that day or participated in mini-walks at their school, workplace or church.

Sadly, as the Washington Post reported in August and September, this is the last year Fannie Mae will hold the Walkathon at the Mall. Instead, they will invite people to participate solely through local mini-walks. We share the concern of numerous nonprofits that this change will draw less public attention to the event and decrease the much-needed dollars we raise.

We know it’s easy to find a reason why you can’t attend the walk. But we challenge you to find a reason why you can.

This year is your last opportunity to bundle up, grab a to-go cup of coffee and carry a sign. It’s your last opportunity to walk alongside great people like June whom our programs aim to help. It’s your last opportunity to stand united with thousands of people as together we walk to make a difference.

We hope you’ll join us (and June!) on November 19. Will it be cold? Most likely. Will it be worth it? Definitely.

Interested in signing up for the Walkathon at the National Mall, or in starting a mini-walk? Check out this link:

Related WashingtonPost stories are available here and here

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