GARY | Friends of the Sojourner Truth House gathered on a beautiful Saturday morning to support the house’s mission.
The 15th annual walk was attended by hundreds, who also enjoyed music, face painting, a raffle, dancing, and visits from special guests like Dora the Explorer. Sponsors included McShane’s, Loomis Sayles, St. Catherine Hospital, Thornburg Investments, the Methodist Hospitals, Peoples Bank, Smith Bizzell Warner Funeral Home, Family Dental Care PC and Edgewater Systems.
The walk is a major fundraiser for Sojourner Truth House, whose mission is to help “homeless and at-risk women and their families,” according to the house’s mission statement. Sponsored by the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ, the house provides health screenings, health referrals, a clothes closet, food pantry, client child care and other services.
The walk drew participants from many walks of life and from around the region. NIPSCO and St. Catherine Hospital sponsored teams. The walk’s goal was $110,000 and, by Saturday, was well on the way to meeting that goal. Among the exhibits in the parking lot behind Sojourner was a table sponsored by the Lake County Sheriff’s Department and manned by Tom Branson, a retired Gary police officer and director of the Violence Intervention Program project; he is also a gang awareness specialist.
“The sheriff likes to have a presence (at such events) and support the good things (that go on in the community)," he said.
One of the more high-profile walking teams was Da Divas of Da Region, which boasted 13 members and six walkers. The group had enjoyed a record fundraising of $800 this year, said team spokeswoman Francine Hintz of Hammond. The Divas, who are from Illinois and Northwest Indiana, walk each year “because there for the grace of God go us,” she said.
Many teams had decided to circle the route more than once.
“We’ll do anything they want us to do,” said Hintz.
In the moments before the walk, Ronald McDonald, one of the event's special guests, danced with a friend as performer Lady Sax, aka Ernie P. Shelby, noodled her way through some tasty licks.
Shelby also joined in while “We are Family” was played during the walk’s starting line. An arch of balloons marked the spots, and teams who included children, babies in strollers and pets, were escorted along the route by members of the Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club of Gary.