There are many ways to volunteer with CASA of the Continental Divide, but one volunteer hiked 5,000 miles in order to raise awareness for the organization. Summit County resident Elisabeth Perry set out in 2011 to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, a 2,650-mile trek that runs from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon and Washington. Her hike was cut short by about 300 miles due to unprecedented snowfall levels.
So on April 21, Perry started the hike over again and completed the entire route. Perry worked as an intern with CASA of the Continental Divide in 2010 and also served as a CASA volunteer.
"It was a trip that changed my life and sparked a new love for me," Perry said. When she thought about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, she decided to make it an opportunity to raise funds and awareness for CASA.
CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates. Its mission is to advocate in court for the best interests of children who are victims of abuse and neglect, in order to find them safe and permanent homes as soon as possible. CASA is a national organization with a local branch serving the 5th Judicial District of Colorado, including Eagle, Lake, Summit and Clear Creek counties.
"I think Elisabeth is a very courageous young woman," said CASA Program Director Kathy Reed. "I am proud of Elisabeth for taking on this challenging hike for our program. In the time that I've known her, I've seen her grow into a very decisive and determined young woman."
Perry took the time to answer some questions about her experience.
1Vail Daily: What led you to take on this challenge for CASA of the Continental Divide?
Elisabeth Perry: I became involved with CASA after hearing about it from someone in the community; it was a perfect time because I was in need of an internship in order to complete my degree in social work. During my internship with CASA, I had two cases of my own. They gave me a better idea of the work CASA does and taught me a lot about how important it is to give back and help others.
2VD: So after working at CASA of the Continental Divide, you decided to get the word out about their mission. What made you decide to hike the Pacific Crest Trail?
EP: After completing two solo thru hikes on the Colorado Trail, I decided I needed to do something bigger, something grander, and so those desires led me to the PCT.
3VD: How many miles and time have you covered in this Pacific Crest Trail endeavor?
EP: Well, last year I hiked around 2,300 miles, and this year I completed a thru hike, over 2,670 miles. The total is around 5,000 miles of hiking in the last 16 months.
4VD: How do you spend your time aside from hiking long distances, and how long have you been involved with CASA?
EP: I have been involved with CASA for about three years now. When I am not hiking, I love to snowboard, ice climb, rock climb, backpack, hike with my dog, read, write. I love to be outside and challenge myself, so I am usually planning or out doing something adventurous.
5VD: What was the most challenging part of this journey?
EP: That's a very hard question. Every day there was a different challenge, but I think for me, it was the pressure I put on myself to finish this year and make it to Canada. Because I fell short a few hundred miles last year from Canada, this year I really pushed myself and I was pretty hard on myself.
6VD: What was the most rewarding part of the journey?
EP: The most rewarding part of this journey were the moments of true and complete bliss and the peace I experienced on the trail. There is so much amazing natural beauty out there, so much magic. Those moments make all the hard times worth it. Being able to live outside and spend each day among such beauty is humbling and rewarding on so many levels, it's hard to explain. And, of course, finally getting to Canada, the end, was one of the most overwhelming moments in my life.
7VD: Would you encourage others to become CASA volunteers? Why?
EP: I would most definitely encourage others to become involved with CASA; the work they do is so wonderful and vital to our community's health and future. It's important to try and make a positive difference, and becoming involved with CASA allows for one to do that. I am a better person because of what I have learned and experienced being involved with CASA.
Michelle Marx is the adult services librarian at the Avon Public Library. Email questions to Caramie Schnell at email@example.com.