By Joyce Washnik, Pets Alive Volunteer
A spontaneous camping trip last June planted a seed in Courtney Black’s head: What else could she do to put this sense of adventure to the test? Her “aha” moment came when her thoughts turned to the Appalachian Trail (AT). With no major commitments in her life, the timing seemed perfect.
“And once my mind landed on the AT, it felt like the idea had been there, kicking around for a while,” she says. “It made my heart race and made me so excited. I stayed up until morning researching it. And that excitement has stayed these past 9 months. Every single part of my life, from June through now, has been completely geared toward getting on the trail.”
Originally from Middletown, New York (and now living in Savannah, Georgia), Courtney wants to make the 6-month, 2,200-mile trek (some 5 million steps) count: She plans to use her journey to raise funds for Pets Alive. “Any amount would make me happy,” she says. Join us in cheering Courtney on as she makes this 2,200 mile hike while paying it forward and raising funds and bringing awareness to the many animals Pets Alive helps each and every year. Together let’s raise $2,200 a dollar for every mile Courtney will hike!
Hiking the trail can be a costly endeavor (estimates are $1,000 per month for shelter, food and supplies along the way), plus additional funds to cover a storage unit, cell phone, bills and more. Courtney also needed to provide 6 months of food and supplies for her two kitties, who will be in the care of a loving foster home while she’s away.
When she made the decision to hike the trail, Courtney traded her 9-to-5 job for positions with flexible hours, working and saving as much as she could each day. Last month she also gave up her apartment and her car to eliminate expenses.
Despite juggling three jobs from June to February, Courtney’s trip almost didn’t happen. Five devastating financial setbacks in a four-month period wiped out all the money she had gathered. Courtney was just about ready to call it quits — until angels showed up at her bartending job.
One night in February, a quiet couple came in and sat at the bar. Before leaving, they called Courtney over and handed her an envelope. They said, “We have a mutual friend,” and told Courtney they knew she planned to give up her dream of hiking the trail. They also shared that they had just hiked the trail themselves, and they implored her not to abandon her dream. Then they handed her an envelope.
Courtney says she cried uncontrollably at their generosity, and it helped her “get her fight back.” Even though she was still short for the trip, she wanted to figure out a way to make it happen. Four weeks later, more angels appeared in her life.
The owner and staff at Savannah Smiles, the dueling piano bar where she works, had been secretly pooling their funds for five weeks, and they surprised Courtney with another envelope toward her trip: “I was crying, like ugly crying! I couldn’t speak. I don’t even have words. They didn’t let me give up.”
Courtney with her friends and supporters
Now, she is ready to hit the trail and pay it forward by raising funds for the animals of Pets Alive. When Courtney lived in Middletown, she and another friend would come to Pets Alive and volunteer as often as they could.
“We walked dogs, cleaned the cat house and rewarded ourselves with the Kitten Room,” she says. “We even convinced one of our girls to add another pup to her family, Zoey the beagle!”
After she moved to Georgia, Courtney wanted to find a similar no-kill rescue where she could volunteer her time — to no avail. “It made me realize how lucky all the people and animals are when they have a Pets Alive nearby,” she says.
When Courtney departed on April 11, she was proudly wearing her Pets Alive T-shirt. “I cannot express how much I love and respect the Pets Alive organization,” she says. “Your tireless effort to save each and every type of animal, your creative fundraising tactics, and your ruthless pursuit to free animals from situations that are anything less than perfect are all so inspiring.”
Join us in following along on Courtney’s amazing journey as she hikes 5 million steps, 2,200 miles for the animals of Pets Alive!
p.s. We will provide periodic blog posts as Courtney advances along the trail or watch our Facebook page for updates. Thank you, in advance, for your support. Any donation made will be used to care for the animals at Pets Alive.
Courtney hit the trail just about a month ago and what an amazing month she has had. She started her journey of 2,200 miles at The Arch. For those not familiar with the Appalachian trail the arch marks the beginning of the 8.5 mile approach trail that connects Amicaloa Falls State Park with the beginning of the Appalachian trail on Springer Mountain in norther Georgia.
Courtney has shared some amazing scenery with us and her followers on instagram (@courtneyablack).
If you aren’t following Courtney’s journey on instagram we encourage you to do so! (@courtneyablack)
Courtney is making great progress despite 21 days in a row of RAIN! We are thrilled to announce that Courtney has hit the 300 mile mark on her journey!
300 Mile Mark!
Courtney is going strong and has passed the 400 mile mark on her journey!
400 Mile Marker!
While Courtney is hiking she is not only seeing amazing scenery that most of us will never get to see, she is also making all kinds of friends along the way!
We hope you will continue to join us in following along on Courtney’s amazing journey as she hikes 5 million steps, 2,200 miles for the animals of Pets Alive!