I first heard about Walk for the Waiting in the spring of 2013. I was finishing up my senior year of college at Mizzou and a friend called me one day to tell me about this awesome new event she was going to back home.
“Walk for the Waiting,” she said.
“Walk for who?” I asked in return. Waiting . . . who is waiting for what and why do we care?
“For kids that are waiting for families. Orphans.”
I was struck by her usage of the word, but also deeply moved by the truth of it. Orphans in our very own backyard. At home.
I moved back to Little Rock that August, and when Walk for the Waiting got fired up again, I immediately registered. I started getting the regular email blasts in the weeks and days leading up to the walk, and one in particular inspired me to respond. It was a simple question: Why are you walking?
That question struck a match in my heart. Why wouldn’t I be walking?! Later that afternoon, in between phone calls at work, I processed the question and wrote my reply.
My husband (then fiancé) and I went to our first Walk for the Waiting together.
We loved the event! It was the first time I met waiting kids face to face. The first time I saw the beauty of foster families. The first time I learned that I really could make a difference even if I wasn’t fostering or adopting right now. I learned it’s not a cause for parents, it’s a cause for the church. The crisis became much more personal for me.
I got plugged in with the planning committee to help plan Walk for the Waiting 2015 and stepped into the role of event coordinator.
God decided to use me a little bit more that year. I was asked if I wouldn’t mind being part of the promotional video. My dad even got involved and did the audio for why he’s walking. It was so meaningful to see my family’s involvement with the Walk in such an intimate way. Home videos from my childhood flashed across the screen while my dad’s voice is in the background, explaining why walking means so much to our family. If it weren’t for adoption, those home videos wouldn’t exist.
Doesn’t every child deserve home videos with their family? Doesn’t every child deserve a childhood?
Our family’s involvement with the promotional video made me want to stand up and advocate for childhoods even more. It made the number “4,600” (kids waiting in foster care in Alabama) come to life. It was a harsh reality, and I had to do more.
I was appointed Walk chair at our debrief meeting a few days later. Since then, my passion for kids in crisis has multiplied. I’ve had the chance to work closely with three of Arkansas’ leading orphan focused non-profit organizations: The CALL, Project Zero and Immerse Arkansas. These organizations all advocate for kids, but in very different ways. The CALL (Children of Arkansas Loved for a Lifetime) helps to recruit and train Christian foster parents, as well as respite care givers. They also take donations of toys and clothing for foster kids as they go from home to home. Project Zero has a traveling Heart Gallery, with photos of children who are currently waiting for adoption (their parents’ rights have been terminated). It’s a powerful way of putting faces to the staggering statistic of “600 kids waiting for adoption.” And finally, Immerse Arkansas, who helps teens age out of the system gracefully. About 250 teenagers in Arkansas will age out of the foster care system this year. Immerse helps youth get their drivers licenses, apply for their first job, or get into college. They also have mentors and provide transitional housing for youth in crisis.
The weatherman called for rain the day the Walk was to take place. Usually, the event would be on the football field of War Memorial Stadium—walkers would go through registration and pick up their t-shirts, then head over to the stage for some worship and a brief program about the organizations the Walk benefits, and how walkers can continue to care for waiting kids after the Walk. Then we would walk about a mile around the stadium, along the sidewalk of the busy streets of mid-town Little Rock.
This year, we had to move the Walk to the concourse from the football field (somewhat last minute) because of the rain. I was pretty nervous the rain would keep our walkers at home, but God showed up big time. Over a thousand people showed up to walk on behalf of kids waiting for families! Arkansas’ Lieutenant Governor showed up to help greet people as they came in through the gate. The newly crowned Mrs. Arkansas wore her tiara and took pictures with children. News anchors were there to cover the event. Over 100 churches were represented and 30 businesses contributed!
We were blessed with more registered walkers and donors than ever before, and had a lot of great exposure with media outlets getting behind the mission. We reached members of the community that may not have ever heard of the foster care crisis, or the need for adoptive families. We have educated kids and youth about foster care and what they can do to make a difference for their peers. We are continuing to mobilize the church and pray to reach our goal of NO MORE WAITING KIDS!