By Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso
Although she’d won a coveted Marine Corps Marathon bib in the lottery, Steph Walker was not excited about the race. “It was the first time I had to train in the hot, humid summer in Virginia Beach,” she explained, “and I didn’t have anyone to train with.” Walker had signed up for the race with a friend, but her friend didn’t live nearby and Walker was struggling to get herself motivated. “I decided I needed to run for someone other than just myself,” she said. “So I joined the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society team.”
Walker has volunteered with the Society for the past eight years, in Lemoore, California; Corpus Christi, Texas; Pensacola, Florida; and now in Little Creek, Virginia. Before she became a Navy spouse, Walker worked as a law enforcement park ranger for the National Park Service. Continuing that career didn’t seem feasible when she became part of a military family, so she signed up for training as an accredited financial counselor. When it was time to log some practicum hours to put her training to the test, Walker signed up as a caseworker with NMCRS. She didn’t realize then how much her volunteer time would benefit her family. “I’m very grateful for getting connected with the Relief Society,” she said. “Volunteering there, I met former service members, spouses, and others who had years of knowledge that I didn’t have, that my husband didn’t have, and that our peer group didn’t have. It was very helpful to have that insight early in our marriage and careers.”
“Being a caseworker got me focused on long-term financial planning for our family, and planning for emergencies,” Walker said. “That knowledge has helped us stay out of the situations that some of the folks who come through our doors at the Society encounter, because I was gained that education as a Society volunteer.”
Using the knowledge she’s acquired as an NMCRS volunteer, Walker has been able to share resources with clients and others. “I’ve been able make suggestions to friends, or Sailors who work for my husband, and tell them about other options for assistance that are available.”
Meanwhile, the opportunity to raise money for an organization she cares so much about has helped Walker stick to her demanding training regimen. “Training takes a lot of time and effort. Getting up early on the weekends when my husband gets to sleep in takes a lot of dedication.” She’s been running since 2011 but has found she enjoys it most when she’s running with friends. “In Lemoore there was a women’s running club and the camaraderie it offered was great. I also liked the personal challenges of improving my time and doing different races—I’ve run a Ragnar Relay, some triathlons, and a century bike ride.”
Despite her initial reluctance, Walker is running a faster pace than she did during her last marathon—the Rock and Roll Marathon in San Diego—two years ago. “I like being outdoors, and I have a couple dogs, so running gets me out with them. I figure it’s good for me,” she said.