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Walking to help others walk away from domestic violence

Herington got to meet another coast to coast walker this past week, the second of the year. Deirdre “De” Fournier came through town last Wednesday on the way east toward Council Grove on the southern route of the American Discovery Trail.

Fournier is the first traveler The Times has interviewed who was going west to east across America. It is more popular to travel starting on the east coast because of the way the weather trends warmer throughout the seven or so months it takes to do the walk, but since Fournier currently lives in California, it made more sense to start her journey there. She is originally from Maine.

Her story of motivation to take this particular adventure started in 2002 when her sister, Julie, was murdered by her estranged husband, a victim of domestic violence. Finding it difficult to cope after the tragedy, Fournier and her husband divorced and she moved to California. She hopped from job to job but couldn’t find satisfaction doing anything.

Finally she discovered purpose in hiking and photography.

“The camera was my therapist,” she recalled. “I named my camera Kevin, after Kevin Costner and he was my photo-therapy. It was a real creative outlet for me.”

After a friend encouraged her to combine her two passions, hiking and photography, into something meaningful, Fournier started pursuing a way to use her skills to raise awareness about domestic violence across America.

After some time on her local trails training, she hit the road with her pull-behind cart full of belongings.

It became clear early on, due to the erosion on the trails in California, that the cart idea would not work, so Fournier was forced to sell it and get rid of much of her gear and change to a traditional backpack.

“My nice Canyon Rebel camera was one of the things I had to send home, and I was totally bummed because that was going to be a big part of this journey,” she remembered.

Fournier was able to use her phone’s camera all the way to Kansas which was just not sufficient. Finally, during a stop in Dodge City, a friend sent her a compact digital camera, and she has been able to resume her photography.

The biggest trouble that she has run across has been the wear and tear on her feet. New shoes have caused pain and blisters which have drastically reduced the miles she is able to accomplish daily.

“Prior to my feet issues, I was doing 15 to 18 miles per day easily,” she shared, “but now I’m lucky to get ten in. That’s when I started hitchhiking, and it irritates me that that’s the way I’m having to travel now.”

At the end of the trail De plans to spend some time her family in Maine and do some writing to document her journey. “I’ve been really fortunate to have the support of my family and friends each day, with phone calls and support on social media.”

“Prayers are always welcome,” she said. “There has not been one day that I didn’t want to do this anymore, but I’ve found something to be grateful for, some reason to continue on.”

“A big one of those reasons is being able to talk to people, especially women, along the way,” she explained. “I’m finding that in these smaller towns that there are so few resources for women in trouble, and in the small towns it is even harder for them because everyone’s related, so who can they go to?”

By sharing safe alternatives, like the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 1-800-799-SAFE, Fournier hopes to help women with the support and resources to get away from dangerous situations like the one which took her sister away from her.

“I know I can’t reach everybody, I can’t save everybody, but I just hope that somewhere along the line I’ll be able to talk to someone about it and help them.”

Fournier started a Go Fund Me account to help fund her journey and to help her to create something with her photography that can help raise money to raise awareness for domestic violence. Anyone wishing to donate to her journey can donate on Go Fund Me by searching “Dee goes from trial to trail.”

The Herington Times

P.O. Box 310, Herington, KS 67449