Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail for polio
Wallace flashes a thumbs up after completing the last stretch of the 2,658 mile Pacific Crest Trail in August. Below; Wallace at the start of the trail. Photo courtesy of Cris Wallace
Cris Wallace hiked more than 2,400 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail in the western United States last year before early snowfall ended her drive to complete the entire route.
Determined to finish, the adventurous Rotarian from Lake Elsinore, California, USA, packed up her gear again in August of this year and completed the remaining 263 miles from Snoqualmie Pass, Washington, to the Manning Provincial Park, British Columbia, Canada, as part of a project to raise funds for PolioPlus.
"I decided that I would do a fundraiser to help eradicate polio, to inspire people to give to PolioPlus, and to remind them that together we can accomplish anything, including safeguarding our children and future generations against the poliovirus," Wallace says.
As part of PCT 4 Polio, a project sponsored by the Rotary Club of Lake Elsinore, Wallace solicited donations to The Rotary Foundation's PolioPlus Fund, visiting more than two dozen clubs in Southern California before taking a single step on the trail. She conducted television and newspaper interviews, visited even more clubs during her hike, and had a booth at the 2007 RI Convention in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Her efforts raised at least $70,000 for PolioPlus, according to donations through her Web site, www.pct4poliofreeworld.com, and spread awareness of Rotary's campaign to eradicate polio.
Public Relations Award
The Lake Elsinore Rotary club received an RI Public Relations Award for the project.
Wallace's parents, both Rotarians, are active in the Lake Elsinore club and played a major role in the project. Her father helped with publicity and promotion, while her mother set up many of the logistics of the hike itself, including mail drops of food and clothing.
Wallace first came up with the idea while spending a year in Europe following her graduation from the University of California, Irvine, in 2005. Sitting in an apartment in Scotland, she read about the Pacific Crest Trail in a British outdoor magazine.
"I said, 'Hey, that's in California! That sounds like a great idea,'" Wallace recalls. "So I talked to my parents and decided, after a little bit of conversation, that polio would be a great thing to walk for."
Her decision was cemented when she took part in a polio immunization trip to Kano, Nigeria, in February 2007.
"It was life-changing," Wallace recalls. "I met a young child who was just experiencing polio within the last three weeks [of my trip], and it was really heartbreaking because his neighbor would not allow his child to be immunized. That really changed my opinion on everything and definitely reinforced my reasons for doing the walk."
Wallace now lives in Whitefish, Montana, and is a member of the Rotary club there. She works as a case manager at Hope Ranch/Star Meadows Academy, a private boarding school for troubled girls ages 13 to 17.
Her mission has increased her commitment to Rotary.
"I didn't know too much about Rotary until I decided to do this project," Wallace says. "I learned a lot about Rotary. My family is Rotary crazy, and now I am Rotary crazy."