Organizers: Eating disorder walk exceeded expectations

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An eating disorder awareness walk in Overton Park this weekend exceeded goals set for its debut by the event’s organizers.
Participants, volunteers and sponsors gathered around the park to raise money and spread awareness in the community about eating disorders.
More than 200 people attended the walk Saturday and the event raised more than $12,000, exceeding its goal of 200 attendees and $10,000 raised.
“Honestly, it brings me to tears to see so many people coming out and supporting a cause that I am so passionate about,” Lauren-Ashton Shepheard, TCU alumna and organizer of the walk, said.
“Their graciousness to generate awareness for NEDA makes my job even easier,” she said, referring to the nonprofit organization, the National Eating Disorders Association.
Shepheard, who struggled with athletic-anorexia while she attended TCU, told The 109 previously she had not known where to find resources for her eating disorder. She said this gave her motivation to go searching for an organization like NEDA while she was in recovery.
Men and women of all ages attended the event. Some brought their children and many brought their dogs. Others formed teams to unite together in support during the walk.
The #SizePerfect team was a team of five women who wore tutus with their team name on them.
“My sister fought an eating disorder, so we are here supporting her,” Alden Gideon, one of the five teachers, said.
Shepheard said she visited sorority meetings at TCU in order to recruit more participants.
“(Shepheard) came to our sorority meeting and told us about the walk,” said Berkley McFarlan, a TCU first-year who is in the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority.
“I am five years in recovery from my eating disorder,” she said. “It’s great they’re starting this in the TCU area so now students have somewhere they can turn to.”
TCU senior Meredith Drukker heard about the event from her Pi Beta Phi chapter meeting.
“My mom is a nutritionist and has helped many people with eating disorders, Drukker said. “Since she is in town, I thought this would be a great event to go to and support together.”
The walk gave 40 percent of its proceeds toward NEDA and 60 percent to the Elisa Project, a leading sponsor of the walk.
The Elisa Project is a 15-year-old nonprofit organization formed in honor of a young girl named Elisa who had Bulimia Nervosa and depression. She ultimately committed suicide.
The organization raises money to support men, women and children with eating disorders.
“Our main component is to provide resources and referrals to those seeking help all over the country,” said Jordan Irvin, an advocacy supervisor for the Elisa Project.
“We travel to schools all around the DFW area educating elementary, middle school and high school students about body image, nutrition and eating disorders,” Irvin said.
Other leading sponsors that attended the event included Park Place, the Vanity, Room and McCallum Place Eating Disorder Centers.
“It is unheard of to have this tremendous of a turnout present at a first-time event like this,” said Anh Ignacio, director of outreach at McCallum Place. “It just shows support for eating disorders is needed throughout this world.”
After they arrived, attendees could get their face painted, participate in a raffle and enjoy free breakfast provided by volunteers from the Fort Worth Junior League.
“We are so happy that we can help (Shepheard) with a cause so close to her heart while still working on our community philanthropy project,” said Laura Standish, a volunteer.
Before the walk began, participants warmed up with a quick yoga session led by yoga instructor Tiffany Denny, owner of III Tree Yoga.
“I have a special place in my heart for this cause,” Denny said. “It is so important that we constantly remind ourselves that we are all beautiful and worthy of love.”
Shepheard said she hopes sponsors can make the walk an annual event.
“I could not be happier with the way things turned out.”
Libby Vincek is a public affairs reporter for The 109. Email her at e.k.vincek@tcu.edu.