Portland 2008 Walk
By far, the absolute, hands down best thing I ever did in my activism was coordinate a Walk for Farm Animals.
In 2007 I coordinated the NYC Walk, and last year I had the honor of acting as the national Walk coordinator (and I have the grey hairs to prove it!). The year 2008 was an exciting Walk year! Nationally, we raised $231,458 ($55,000 of which came from NYC!). As my colleague Michelle Sass likes to say, “that’s a lot of hay!” The funds raised from the Walks go directly toward Farm Sanctuary’s rescue, education and advocacy efforts – making a difference that I can fully attest is of Herculean proportions.
Not to play favorites, but Walk coordinators are among our most esteemed activists. Last year, we had 58 Walks all across the USA and Canada, and I saw first-hand how much heart and soul these volunteers put into their organizing. The fabulous Walk veteran Holly L. (who’s currently in the Toronto Walk co-coordinator seat for the fourth time) finds this event to be just as much fun as it is effective. She told me, “I enjoy getting to use my fun, friendly, diplomatic approach/strategy (which I realize is also Farm Sanctuary's style) to influence the public by making the Walk a terrific outreach event."
2008 Toronto Walk
In NYC – where 440 people came out for the event in torrential downpours in 2008– this year’s coordinators, Ruth S. and Robyn L., are gearing up for what’s sure to be another smashing success. When I asked Robyn what made her decide to work on the Walk this year, she responded: “I decided to coordinate the Walk because Farm Sanctuary thoroughly amazes me, and it's quite the privilege to work with you all on this important event! Plus, I am endlessly humbled by my fellow activists and view it as vital to give back to my community. But most importantly, the animals need my voice and my talents, and I'm going to give them all that I have.” (Thanks, Robyn! You’re not so bad yourself!)
2008 NYC Walk
Part of the beauty of the Walks is that they come in all shapes and sizes. While some are gigantic and have hundreds of walkers, other smaller towns generate fewer people, but the awareness-raising component is still enormous. Here is an e-mail I dug out from “Q,” last year’s Claremont, CA Walk coordinator. I remember how deeply this touched me last year, when I first read it:
“I just wanted to let you know that our Walk was a wonderful experience! The group was a fabulous mix including our lovely little four year-old vegan, Lana, with her homemade sign, high school and college students, couples, seniors, and a few local teachers who took materials to use in the classroom. We also had seven dogs along, all wearing the matching barnyard bandanas we supplied. We also got plenty of support along the route, including cars honking, people calling out encouragement (such as 'thanks for doing this' and 'keep it up'), and at one point a small group of people lined the opposite sidewalk and applauded as we passed! One of the things that touched my heart most happened early in the Walk. A mother and her little girl stopped what they were doing and joined the march. The little girl was obviously handicapped (her feet and hands turned inward) so she walked with difficulty, but she was determined to hold a sign, and she never stopped smiling. They stayed with us for much of the Walk until the little one grew tired and after a few good-bye hugs, she and her mom slipped away. When we returned to the park we had a lovely spread with fruit, nuts, and homemade vegan cookies. One of our participants was an award- winning children's book author. She gave signed picture books to our youngest walkers. Another participant was a counselor who visits schools to help students who want to adopt a vegan lifestyle. She shared lots of great info. We had so much food that several children and parents from the nearby playground joined in the celebration and picked up pamphlets. The end result was that friendships were made and many people took handouts to spread the word about Farm Sanctuary. Thanks for giving us this opportunity to do something positive for farm animals!”
(Once again, I’m ferclemped.)
The Walks are truly awesome, and I hope that you’ll consider coordinating one in your area, or if there is already one set up, getting involved with it nonetheless. Oftentimes, the Walks are the most successful when they are team efforts!
Find out if there is a Walk already scheduled near you. If there isn’t, please (please!) contact this year’s national Walk coordinator, Beth Begany, to inquire about setting one up! (Beth is amazing, by the way. She will “Walk” you through the entire process of your coordinating, so don’t be afraid! We are totally here for you!)
Last but not least, I am excited to announce Farm Sanctuary’s newest blog, Walk Talk. Read it, enjoy it, pass it on…
Take steps toward compassion, and get ready to raise awareness and eyebrows.