NEDA Walk 2016

It is good to volunteer and give back to society. Giving back is such a broad term: some possibilities are time, money, or talents. However, exactly WHY is it good to volunteer and give back? Ever since I was young, I’ve done some sort of volunteer projects here and there. When I was a young child, it was going with my home church, Nor’Kirk Presbyterian, to the Dallas homeless shelter and handing out bagged dinners. I remember clearly how my friend Ryan and I would make a game out of getting the bags down the assembly line to the the hungry men and women. We would race from the end of the food line where the eggs were to the table where the bags were left. Since then, my volunteer experience has developed into new areas. A week during the Summer of 2013 I traveled to Lafayette, Louisiana with some members of Gateway Church in Austin for a Habitat for Humanity build. That was an amazing experience. We spent a week helping build a house with another group from Philadelphia.

Now, recently I volunteered as a photographer for the National Eating Disorder Association Walk. The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) is a national organization focused on providing different sorts of help to those suffering from an Eating Disorder. The Walk was a large fundraiser for the organization, and community builder. Hundreds of people came to support one another. Eating Disorders are very complicated and sometimes not as easy to spot as another illness. The Walk was held on the morning of April 16 at the Triangle in Austin; this event is also a national event. Luckily, the event did not get rained out! There was fear of flooding in Austin, but luckily that did not happen during the Walk. There was a live music artist playing the entire time, free breakfast tacos and coffee which I definitely took part in. Many attendees brought their dogs, and seeing them made me so happy. I love dogs, and I miss having one around. The dogs actually filled up a good chunk of my SD card on my camera! Attendees received a free NEDA Walk shirt as well as a drawstring canvas bag from their main sponsor, Aerie. There were also orange bandanas for the dogs to sport. Before taking a short walk around the Triangle, a series of people and sponsors came up to talk to the attendees. The main speaker was Jenni Schaefer who is an internationally known speaker and author. She fully recovered from her Eating Disorder and became a National Recovery Advocate of the Eating Recovery Center’s Family Institute. She spoke about her journey and how it is possible to be fully recovered. Looking out among the crowd, I could see how her words were hitting home to so many people. Jenni is also a singer/songwriter, by the way, and she brought out her guitar and performed a song about being happy and positive. I saw a smile lift on people’s faces as they listened to her. After Jenni and the other speakers talked, it was time for the Walk. Right as the last speaker, Caroline a yoga instructor, was finishing her yoga demonstration, it started to sprinkle. Even though the weather was turning, the participants stayed around and went on the short Walk. While the participants did the Walk, the volunteers helped pack up tables and brought the stuff to shelter. As the walk ended, raffle prizes were handed out and everyone dispersed out into the rain.

I left the event feeling very happy. It was fulfilling knowing that I was able to volunteer my time and talents to help an organization that is doing so much good. I may not have interacted directly with those in need, but I hope my photos can help the organization in some way to help others.