Christine Baker of Clinton is an inspired, inspiring inspiration. She has made a conscious effort in her life to work hard and do good, two tasks for which she was recently recognized for by Mount St. Mary College, which honored her with the distinguished Alumni Award for her abundant contributions to society through professional and volunteer work.
After narrowly escaping the destruction of Sept. 11, 2001, by over-sleeping that morning and not making it to the base of the World Trade Center, where she was supposed to be, Christine felt a need to do something positive, so she launched the Walk4Good non-profit organization.
She pledged to walk 2,180 miles of the Appalachian Trail, which spans from Maine to Georgia. The idea was to garner a pledge of a random act of kindness from others for each mile she hiked. To date, she has hiked 800 miles and rounded up 1,300 pledges of kind acts.
Christine explains, "The main goal of this organization is to inspire, educate, and empower people to practice kindness, and to pass that kindness on to others."
She adds, "[During] my junior year of college I participated in an alternative spring break trip and it really opened my eyes to how even the smallest gestures of kindness could have such a huge effect on someone's life, when they are in the middle of a catastrophe. We went to Illinois to help farmers rebuild and get back on their feet after a flood had hit the area."
Recently, due to Superstorm Sandy, Christine got the chance to experience firsthand what it felt like to have strangers come to her rescue and extend that helping hand to her, when her home in New York was destroyed by the natural disaster, prompting her move to Clinton.
"I have always been on the giving side of volunteering. For the first time I was on the receiving side, and it gave me a new unique perspective," explains Christine, who is also an accomplished author and regularly lectures on the subjects on Title IX and women's sports participation.
In 2009 Christine started CB Creative, Inc., an integrated consulting firm that works with small business, non-profits, and higher education clients. She's also a global columnist for Stay Thirsty Media and has written hundreds of articles for publications such as Got Game Magazine, Full Court Press Online, Confluence, Beginnings Literary Magazine, and The Tipton Poetry Journal.
"I don't know how I would have gotten through everything that happened during Sandy if it had not been for the kindness of others, so this really solidified my goal to inspire others to help wherever and whenever you can, even if that simply means holding the door for someone or buying the coffee for the person behind you in line."
Christine has plans of returning to the Appalachian Trail in March to pick back up where she left off and finish what she started. Accompanying her on this journey will be her six year-old yellow Labrador retriever, Jessie (a certified therapy dog), and her three year-old black Lab, Maggie.
"I will alternate both dogs throughout the trail, since the terrain is pretty tough," explained Christine.
In the past, she and Jesse traveled around to several schools in New York spreading the word of anti-bullying and kindness. Keeping education in her sight, Christine has opened up her hiking experience to be used as a teaching tool for local schools, which will have the opportunity to Skype with her while she is on the trail, mixing geography, mathematics, and history lessons into the classroom from afar.
"I have always loved the outdoors and getting away from it all, which is pretty ironic since I have to be so connected for my daily job. But, when you have to carry everything you really need on your back, what is important becomes very clear," says Christine, who grew up spending summer days on the shores of the Surf Club beach in Madison.
Although her return to the area was not planned, she explains, "Life moves so fast, especially as you get older, and when I first moved back to Clinton, I went to a Hand football game at the Surf Club; nothing had changed, yet so much has changed. The shoreline really is a beautiful place and now everything seems to have come full circle for me and I truly feel as though I am home."
For more information about the Christine's walk4good, visit www.walk4good.org.