Personality: Sharon S. Jennings | Richmond Free Press
For the past six years, Sharon Simmons Jennings has helped spice up the women’s march through Richmond.
The Henrico resident founded the Richmond chapter of GirlTrek in 2016 and over the years has worked to ensure a welcoming and motivating atmosphere for the group, its many members and the many walking trips they take. perform across Richmond and elsewhere.
GirlTrek calls itself a “health revolution for black women,” with walking becoming the pathway to self-care, healing, and life transformation for black people.
Since the nonprofit started in Washington in 2010 with two friends, T. Morgan Dixon and Vanessa Garrison, it has more than one million members who pledge to walk daily. Energized by this daily movement, women are speaking out, organizing and enacting policy change by mobilizing members to support advocacy efforts and support families and communities.
The benefits are many, from improving personal health to inspiring girls and reclaiming communities, organizers say.
“GirlTrek is truly a life-saving sisterhood,” says Ms. Jennings. “We come together to enjoy fun, camaraderie and fitness, whether it’s walking every Saturday, going to brunch or supporting our sisters through life’s events.”
The physical and mental rewards of working at GirlTrek Richmond are a big part of its appeal to Ms Jennings, who cites walking as a key benefit during her weight loss and battle with cancer.
“Walking strengthens your mind, body and soul,” says Ms. Jennings. “You allow yourself to be free.”
Ms. Jennings first became involved with GirlTrek at the request of her daughter, who was walking with GirlTrek while attending law school in Washington, DC. She was so inspired that she started the group in Richmond, which now has over 800 members. There are several active chapters in the Richmond metropolitan area, as well as chapters in other Virginia localities.
As a volunteer leader, Ms. Jennings leads marches in Richmond and elsewhere. GirlTrek members also participate as walkers in other local events, such as Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10K, the annual Walk for Autism, and the Richmond Marathon.
As GirlTrek’s Virginia State Coach, Ms. Jennings’ primary goal is to introduce walking opportunities to women who need a way to relax and prioritize their well-being. . She also strives to help them develop their walking skills through fun and interesting locations that encourage participants to “go beyond what they thought they could do”.
“Every day someone who needs to walk and talk comes along,” Ms Jennings says. “We accompany each other through grief, illness, the pains of caring for elderly parents and the pressures of life.
“If a lady says ‘I need to walk’ then you can be sure we are meeting her to walk.”
Meet a leader who makes improving health a walk in the park and this week’s personality, Sharon Simmons Jennings:
Volunteer position #1: GirlTrek Virginia State Coach.
Occupation: Project Manager.
Date and place of birth: June 13 in Richmond.
Where I live now: County of Henrico.
Education: Diploma in human resources, through virtual courses in the United States Air Force.
Family: His daughter, Sharita, and sister, Gilda, both GirlTrek members.
GirlTrek is: A change of lifestyle to heal our bodies, inspire our girls and reclaim the streets of our neighborhoods. It actually helped save me during my weight loss journey and during my battle with cancer.
GirlTrek Mission: Ignite a mass movement for health justice.
Founders: GirlTrek started with our founders, T. Morgan Dixon and Vanessa Garrison in 2010 in Washington, DC
Why GirlTrek is more than just a walking club for black women: GirlTrek is truly a life-saving sisterhood. We come together to enjoy fun, fellowship, and fitness, whether it’s walking every Saturday, going to brunch, or supporting our sisters through life’s events. And GirlTrek isn’t just in Richmond. There are over a million women walking with GirlTrek across the country and even in Ghana.
GirlTrek draws its inspiration from: We are inspired and led by the shadow of Harriet Tubman. Like Harriet, we may have to walk alone…to speed up change or slow down demands, listen to our own heartbeats or free ourselves to heaven. And when we find that kind of strength – to hope – to take that solo walk – to step out of faith into our healthiest and most fulfilled lives, then the mission becomes deeply personal – to come back and have a sister. GirlTrek is a life-saving sisterhood.
Number of national chapters: GirlTrek has active walkers in over 2,500 cities.
When the Virginia group was created: I can’t say for sure, but I started the Richmond chapter in 2016.
Where are the Virginia GirlTrek chapters: We have groups in downtown Richmond; West end of Richmond; South of the James; Hampton; Norfolk; and Stafford.
How GirlTrek works for participants: It works, because the numbers speak for themselves:
● 61% of black women have lost weight.
● 90% had fewer symptoms of depression.
● 28% were prescribed less medication than in previous years.
● 59% walk daily at vital levels. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this is like walking 30 minutes a day five days a week.
● 56% have been in the habit of walking daily for more than a year.
Typical GirlTrek outing: On Superhero Saturdays, we meet, greet and take in the beautiful scenery of Richmond. Our favorite hike is crossing the beautiful James River. Typical walks are 5-6 miles. But we leave no one behind. If someone comes to walk, we let them set the distance and pace.
How I connected with GirlTrek and became a leader: My daughter, Sharita, started walking with GirlTrek in DC while in law school. She asked me to go out and meet the ladies. I fell in love with sisterhood and brotherhood. I then decided to put on the GirlTrek Superhero Blue shirt here in Richmond and surely others are coming to join us. We have over 893 members here in Richmond alone.
Goal or Project #1 as a Virginia Leader: My goal is simply to present an opportunity to walk to someone who needs to let go, relax and put themselves forward.
Strategy to achieve the objectives: Keep walks fun and interesting. Some of our hikers never thought they would be hiking and climbing. My goal is to help others go beyond what they thought they could do, and then watch them celebrate when they achieve that goal.
My walking shoes are: Ons or ASICS.
My daily walking goal: To reach 15,000 steps, which equals 6 miles per day.
GirlTrek partners with: Columbia Sportswear, Let’s Move, the NAACP and the National Park Service, to name a few.
How to participate in GirlTrek: Visit the website www.girltrek.org and commit to walking. Ask to join our Facebook page, Girltrek: Richmond, VA.
A perfect day for me: Walk along the James River at sunrise or sunset and exhale.
What I’m learning about myself during the pandemic: That Richmond has so much beauty you can’t see while driving a car. It’s a whole other beautiful site when you walk around. Trying new things, hiking, climbing, we can do it all.
When I walk, I think of: Those who cannot walk. I think of my blessings and talk to my mother and my sister who are no longer with me.
Person who inspires me to walk: It’s not just one person. But when I see someone with a limp, a brace, or a disability, I think if they can do it, so can I. I am inspired by his determination to keep moving forward no matter what.
Something I love to do that most people would never imagine: Hiking is my new love. I love the outdoors and pushing myself to get to that view at the top.
Quote that inspires me: Always believe that something wonderful is going to happen. Even with all the ups and downs, never take a day for granted. Cherish the little things and embrace the ones you love.
My friends describe me as: Energetic, short and always smiling, selfless in giving and sharing.
At the top of my to-do list: Walk with anyone who is having chemo alone. My sister and my friends wouldn’t let me do a single treatment and I want to make sure I’m there for any woman going through cancer. My list includes working with hospitals to return to chemo patient visits now that COVID-19 is under control.
Best late night snack: A bowl of grapes and cheese.
Best thing my parents ever taught me: Treat everyone exactly as you would like to be treated.
Person who influenced me the most: My mother, Julia M. Simmons. She smiled through all her ups and downs, roadblocks and pains. No one could take his joy.
Next goal: Learn to swim, and maybe walk a full marathon.