GirlTrek Takes On National Parks and Helps Black Women and Girls Take Back Their Health

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During the month of August, black women and girls from across the country laced up their boots and stepped out to walk in national parks as part of GirlTrek’s Summer Trek Series, a partnership with the National Park Service to support “Healthy Parks, Healthy People.” GirlTrek, a national nonprofit and health organization that inspires and empowers black women and girls to live their healthiest lives simply through walking, believes parks are our greatest health resource. GirlTrek also believes that when women walk, things change.

Black women are dying faster and at higher rates than any other group of women in America from preventable diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. Each of these diseases is obesity-related, and four out of five African-American women are over a healthy weight. We walk to change these statistics—to defy them instead of being defined by them. We walk to heal our bodies, our families, and our communities.

The women of GirlTrek hiking

Before joining GirlTrek, the idea of trudging through sand in the hot sun while strategically dodging low-growing poison ivy probably wouldn’t have sounded like a fun way to spend my Saturday. However, I can also honestly say that for me and 13 other adventurous women who visited Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore during the Summer Trek Series, it was everything that great memories are made of: friends, inspiring sights and sounds, laughter, and shared accomplishment.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the daily grind of life that we forget to live and enjoy nature’s gifts of fresh air, sunshine, and scenic trails. In Chicago, we also forget that we live only a short drive or train ride away from the Indiana Dunes. Visiting the dunes provided an opportunity to get away from the hustle of the city and to do something good for our health, inside and out. It’s important to take advantage of these opportunities—so important that three trekkers from Detroit even hit the road before sunrise to walk with us. REI and Columbia Sportswear sent water bottles and other goodies in support. It’s so important that GirlTrek dedicated an entire month to making this experience possible for women nationwide. The health of black women matters.

The women of GirlTrek pose with a ranger at Indiana Dunes

Our visit to the Indiana Dunes challenged us physically, but the end of our hiking trail led us straight to the beach. We jumped for joy, hugged each other, took victory photos, and wiggled our toes in the sand. Our journey to the beach was a perfect metaphor for why we continue to take steps in this GirlTrek movement. At times the walking feels challenging, but there’s a greater reward of health on the other side … and thousands of our sisters supporting us along the way.

To join the GirlTrek movement, visit www.girltrek.org.

About the Author

Sandria M. Washington is a volunteer leader for GirlTrek