A Walk to Remember

June 15, 2013

With my knees finally recovering from my 33 mile walk across Prince William County, I thought I would take a moment to share some experiences I had while participating in the 2013 Walk for Prince William event.

As you may have heard, I walked from Woodbridge to Haymarket to raise money for six local non-profit groups that help every day to make Prince William County a wonderful place to live.  These non-profits included the Hilda Barg Homeless Prevention Center, ACTS, SERVE, Youth Apostles Don Bosco Center, the Office Chris Yung Memorial Fund, and the Marine Lance Corporal Nick Thom Housing Fund.  Over the 33 miles, I had the opportunity to visit with many volunteers who give of their time and effort to support these organizations, all without fanfare.

Before I go on any further, let me thank all of you who made a donation during this event to help these non-profits.  When I began this effort, the goal was set of raising $30,000, and we are very close to reaching that goal.  But all of these wonderful non-profits still need more help from each one of us.  I would encourage everyone to visit the donation page at https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/walkforprincewilliam, and show your appreciation for the great work that is done by the hundreds of volunteers who serve less fortunate families in our community – and to recognize the sacrifices of Officer Chris Yung and Marine Lance Cpl. Nick Thom.

At 6:00 am on Memorial Day, a small group of us gathered at the Hilda M. Barg Homeless Prevention Center to kick off the Walk for Prince William, and to thank the staff at the Center.  For the first leg of the walk, I was joined by my good friend Supervisor Mike May (Occoquan) and Prince William County Police Officer Greg Pass – who volunteered to walk the whole 33 miles with me in remembrance of his friend and colleague, Office Chris Yung, who died in the line of duty a few months ago.

The weather was perfect and the company was even better.  Along the way, we were joined by a couple of residents who heard about the walk and wanted to join in.  It was a great experience to visit with the folks who came out and to see the county from the street view.  As we were walking past the Stonebridge at Potomac Town Center and the office buildings and shops along Smoketown Rd., it struck me how much business growth there has been in the county over the past several years.  While there is still much more we can do, Prince William County is a business friendly area that welcomes small and large companies with pro-business policies.

It also struck me how effective our networks of sidewalks are in the County.  Although more needs to be done, I was impressed that one could walk as far as I did, staying on safe sidewalks most of the way.

At our first stop after seven miles, we visited with volunteers from ACTS at the McCoart building.   This organization does so much to help and support those who find themselves in need of assistance.  I was touched to hear of their dedication to their work and some of the serious situations they help people through.  At this point, we parted ways with Supervisor May and made our long haul down the Prince William County Parkway.  Mike had family obligations for the day, but I know in his heart he wanted to stay with the entire Walk.  I am very grateful for his support and friendship.  This next eight-mile hike was long, but gave me a great opportunity to take in the beauty of our county.

After a few hours, we arrived in Manassas and walked over to the Youth Apostles Don Bosco Center.  This group helps predominately Hispanic middle school-aged kids in the community with a safe place to play and learn.  After meeting Father Ramon and visiting with volunteers, I was able to participate in an impromptu game of soccer.  With over 15 miles under my belt by that point, I admit I wasn’t at my best, but it was a lot of fun getting to know a few of the kids and seeing the great work being done there.

From the Don Bosco Center, Officer Pass and I walked a couple of miles over to the SERVE complex.  This organization helps individuals and families with a place to live, help with food, and assistance with job placement.  We took a tour of the buildings and learned of all the services they provide.

While walking along the road to SERVE, I had the privilege of meeting Charlie Pickens, a fourth generation resident of Prince William County.  It was truly an honor to visit with Charlie and hear about his time in the County, his families’ history, and his time in the Service.  In the end, Prince William is a great place to live because of the wonderful people that make up its population.  People like Charlie live their lives every day raising a family, going to work, and volunteering in the community.

When we were finished visiting with the good folks at SERVE, we walked over to the Western District Police Station.  Here, we were able to visit with those officers who knew Officer Yung and express our appreciation for the work they do in keeping all of us safe.  As the Gainesville Supervisor, I am reminded often of the wonderful men and women of our Police Department.  We truly have one of the best police departments in the country.

From the police station, we started our final leg of the trip – almost seven miles to the finish line in Haymarket.  By this point, my knees were in considerable pain, but I was able to pass the time by hearing the incredible stories of sacrifice and courage from Officer Pass.  He told me of his experiences as a Prince William County Police Officer and his appreciation for the opportunity to serve.

After 33 miles, 12.5 hours, and over 64,000 steps, we made our way into the town square in Haymarket.  We were overwhelmed to see almost a hundred people who had gathered to welcome us at the finish line.  We were able to have a small ceremony thanking our sponsors, and I was able to present Officer Greg Pass with our latest Gainesville Hero Award.

I won’t ever forget Memorial Day 2013, where I was able to participate in the Walk for Prince William and see the sites of the county and meet the wonderful people who help to make our community a great place to live and raise a family.  I’m looking forward to the Walk next year…hope to see you out there.