By Libby Hopkins

Try seeing life through the eyes of a foster child. Would you want to walk a mile in their shoes? Unless you have, you have no idea what their life is like. That’s the mind-set that Lorita Shirley, executive director of Eckerd Community Alternatives had when she formed the idea to host the Walk a Mile for a Child in Foster Care event last month.

“We decided the walk to raise awareness and encourage groups and individuals to join us in bridging the gap that has left our most vulnerable population, children who have been abused, neglected or struggling to succeed,” Shirley said, “We focus on engaging churches and communities of faith, as we knew Eckerd’s mission and that of other Christian-based organizations were closely aligned.”

Shirley envisioned a mile-long walk where each person registered to walk would be given the first name and age of an actual child in the Hillsborough County foster care system, and as they walked, they would be thinking about and walking on the behalf of that specific child. Hundreds turned out to show their support at the Riverwalk in Downtown Tampa.

Eckerd Community Alternatives is a national nonprofit organization that has helped more than 150,000 children and families since 1968. They provide a full continuum of life-changing behavioral health and child welfare services to around 13,000 children and families annually.

Its mission is to provide solutions that promote the well-being of children and families in need. Shirley knows that everyone in the community has something they can contribute, whether it’s deciding to become a foster parent, serve as a Guardian ad Litem, or even adoption.

“Our belief is that everyone can do something to make a difference,” Shirley said, “We encourage everyone to reach into their hearts for the thousands of children God has entrusted in our care and join us in giving them the much-needed second chance they deserve.”

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Libby Hopkins has been a part of the Brandon community for more than 30 years. She is a graduate of USF with a degree in journalism. She has been a freelance writer for The Osprey Observer Newspaper since 2008. She also the Executive Director of Center Place Fine Arts and Civic Association. She is a dog mom to her rescue dog, Marshall. She loves being a part of the Brandon Community and she loves sharing positive news about our community.