Leilah Grace

In 2019 I rediscovered my love of hiking and fell in love with backpacking. Much of my kid-free time was being spent on hiking, backpacking, and learning more about this community. I found Rue on Instagram in the fall of 2019 shortly after joining Instagram and found myself intrigued by his project.

On a fateful December day I read that Rue had sustained a back injury, and being a physical therapist I was compelled to reach out to offer any assistance I could provide. We spent the next 10 days in communication as I coached him through tremendous back pain. I became more intrigued with the project, and found myself offering to be a free virtual assistant. Less than 3 weeks after offering to help with his back injury we were speaking on the phone, an interview of sorts. Within the first few minutes of that phone call we were speaking like we had known each other for ages, not just a month. I originally signed on to manage social media, and any other little things that Rue would find along the way. It wasn’t long after my joining that Rue found himself in a dire situation: he was almost out of food and money. He reached out to me and we came up with a plan including Facebook fundraisers and an amazon wishlist.

During this period my children observed me taking on a huge project and, surprisingly to me, became invested as well. When I told them about his financial situation they all went to their piggy banks and brought me money, concerned he would be hungry. It touched me deeply, and it was in that moment that I understood that this project was not just for me, but for them as well. They continue to assist; editing sound for videos and interviews, packing and unpacking boxes, hauling in packages, and sending Rue their own artwork. When he visited with us in the late spring they were enthralled, and decorated to make sure he knew he was welcome. This opportunity to coordinate this beautiful project has gifted me with new insights on the hearts and minds of my children, and for that I am thankful.

I have watched this community grow from under 800 followers on our Facebook page to close to 3,000, a growing Instagram community, as well as YouTube and Twitter. While I still manage most of the social media, my role has expanded to marketing, fundraising, and so much more. We went from an unbranded community, to a lively, branded, loving family of APT supporters. I thank you all for your ongoing support of Rue and the APT and look forward to our continued collaborations.

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