Laurie Towey is a fairly recent addition to the Feet First Neighborhood Walking Ambassador program. Like many of us, though, she is long time lover of walking in community with others. Laurie shares what motivates people to volunteer in this way – why does she show up to lead?
Laurie was already leading her own speed-walks around the 6.2 mile Lake Union loop, when she learned about Feet First from a couple of her participants, most notably John Reardon. John regularly leads weekly walks around West Seattle. John’s enthusiasm and commitment inspired Laurie and soon she led her first Neighborhood Walking Ambassador walk, quickly ramping up to 2-3 jaunts per month. Laurie was seeking an opportunity to share her experiences with others, to help folks get out of their houses and cars and workplaces and enjoy the outside world, to meet new people, and make new friends.
After six months, Laurie regularly plans and leads one Feet First walk per month. She thinks she may have gained a reputation with some as an “OMG, she’s fast!” leader by setting a brisk pace around 3 mph. Laurie’s a morning person, so you’ll find her walking early in the day. She keeps her walks under 3 hours long “or no one will sign up!” and she usually settles on a route between 3 and 4 miles so everyone gets a workout.
Laurie designs a walking route that stays within Seattle and considers destinations likely to draw people’s interest; unusual or noteworthy sites they may never have seen. She always remembers to mark public bathrooms along the way (a must!), and she identifies a good midway rest stop or end of walk gathering place for coffee and a chat. Again, building community is a cornerstone to her walks. Laurie also plans for those people who may have overestimated their stamina. A walk with a bus stop mid way is a nice touch. Those who aren’t sure they can make the trip back can hop on the bus for a leisurely return.
So what is different about a Feet First walk? Laurie shared, “You have such diversity of ages and backgrounds. You just don’t see this in other groups.” Laurie guesses that about 60 to 70 percent of those who come on her walks have moved to Seattle in the past 5 years. “People from all over the world are moving to Seattle and Feet First is a way for them to meet others and learn a little about the city.” It’s notable that Laurie’s walks around Lake Union are at the epicenter of Amazon territory. In fact, Laurie has a vision about this; “Amazon brings so many people to Seattle who have never lived here before – who don’t know anyone and know little about the city itself.” If Laurie had her way, Amazon would step up and support their own Feet First walking ambassadors – helping connect their newly transplanted employees with each other and their new home.
Laurie shares a favorite Feet First story, recalling that surprising afternoon of rain after the longest, driest, hottest Seattle spell in memory when she hosted a walk in combination with an ice cream cruise, the very rare Feet First event that people paid $15 in advance. Fifteen people signed up, however the day of the event only five people showed up. Wait, what!? Seattleites afraid of rain?! Laurie said it wasn’t raining, it was pouring, with a forecast for lightning and thunderstorms ahead.
The small group started off at Gasworks Park and headed south toward MOHAI. Laurie, as leader, tried her best to be cheerful, but she admits “it was a SLOG!” The little group though, was all game. Hats dripping, shoes squelching, they arrived early at South Lake Union and what did they discover? A tarp-covered grand piano – one of the 22 King County Pianos in the Park. And as luck would have it, they had Cliff on their walk who is an excellent piano player! They rolled back that tarp and while Cliff played song after song, they stomped out their own version of Singin’ and Dancin’ in the Rain.
At cruise launch, they were joined by 2 ‘meet you there’ Feet-Firsters. And like typical Seattle weather, one minute after they embarked, the sun broke through the clouds and the sky quickly cleared. On this 42-person boat, the tiny, happy group of 8 made their way through root beer floats and ice cream cones, thoroughly enjoying Cap’n Larry and his stories. Larry was in top form, and it was a beautiful, beautiful day. While those drenched shoes were still soggy on the long walk back, it was a day worth experiencing.
Laurie has a great connection to community. As a Neighborhood Walking Ambassador she is a leader and community builder who cares that people are out on her walks.
WALKTOBER Walk for Fun walks are a great time to join a group and explore your neighborhood. Join Laurie and other Neighborhood Walking Ambassadors who are building community through walking.