Family

Jan. 26, 2021
One year with the APT. Within the first month of volunteering to assist Rue he called and left me a chilling voicemail message; he was walking into west Texas almost out of food, and certainly out of money. I can remember standing in my kitchen, dressed in my clothes to go coach beginner gymnastics and my mouth gaping open. What was I going to do? 
Three hours later I finally had a moment to think, yet I was still unsure of the best direction, standing again in my kitchen trying to finalize a dinner for hungry kids. In my distracted state they ask what’s wrong, so I tell them, our new friend Rue is hungry and doesn’t have any money to buy food. Off go my kids and they come back with cash in hand, their own money from their piggy banks, because they don’t want him to be hungry. From that moment I knew I had to turn to the community and ask for help. One Facebook fundraiser later Rue had some money and I was determined to never find ourselves in this situation again, so I also then created the Amazon wishlist for him. Never could I have imagined the outpouring of love from everyone with that list. Food, gear, clothing, treats, etc. were all sent to me, and what started as a very small stack of boxes, grew to 5 large plastic bins. I dusted off my dehydrator and learned to dehydrate a portion of our family meals to him. Rue quickly went from business partner to friend to family.
When Covid-19 hit and life was coming to a standstill, just a few short months in, Rue and I were forced to face difficult decisions. The resupply boxes became a lifeline, and filling them was critical. Rue’s transition to family meant factoring feeding him into my grocery budget as we still had not gained a lot of momentum yet on the wishlist. While the rest of the nation was stockpiling toilet paper and cleaning supplies I was grabbing almond butter, corn tortillas, nuts and fruits. Thankfully this community heard my pleas and his boxes began to be filled by the love of strangers. 
As Rue approached Pennsylvania we began to make plans for his return to his birth state, but an unexpected illness found me fetching him earlier than planned. With Covid still in high numbers in Pennsylvania we changed direction again, hosting zoom sessions to celebrate his return instead of a room of people. We arrived at home, lovingly decorated by my children complete with welcome signs and streamers around. That weekend they baked him cupcakes at their dad’s and were thrilled with a cookout and campfire and Rue stories. There were hugs goodbye and tears when I dropped him in a grocery story parking lot in West Virginia.
While Rue grew to be a part of my family, the rest of the APT community did as well. As he hiked and Covid restrictions lifted my coordinating life became busier trying to predict towns and alert potential trail angels. I had the opportunity to speak with some, and the trail angels that carried him through the perils of Michigan, Minnesota, and North Dakota will always be special to me. Each time I received an email, text, call, or message from one saying they had him I could breathe easy for a moment. He was safe, cared for, and able to receive some much needed human interaction, something I think we can all appreciate after this past year.
In a year where divides were displayed, encouraged, and created, the APT has become family, a community of love. Regardless of our geographical location, color, gender identity, sexual preference, ethnicity and cultural backgrounds we are a family. I look forward to our future and seeing, hiking, and celebrating with all of you throughout this year.

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