Driven for all the right reasons
By CONNIE NOLEN / Community Columnist
Driven is the perfect descriptor for Jennifer Giddens. A 2013 PHS grad, Giddens and I first met when she was a little girl at Pelham Park watching her brother and my son play baseball. As a high school junior, Giddens had grown into a practical girl with clear ambitions. She did extraordinary work and was up for any challenge.
Discovering that Giddens would graduate from Auburn University a semester early in December 2016 was unsurprising. Discovering the next path that she’d take was shocking.
On March 27, 2017, Giddens began a 2,189-mile hike in Georgia that ended four-and-a-half months later on a mountaintop in Maine as she successfully completed the Appalachian Trail. In addition to accomplishing this enormous challenge, Giddens also raised $18,015.10 for Open Hands, Overflowing Hearts—an organization that raises funds for childhood cancer research.
Giddens knew Kayla Funk, the organization’s founder, as a friend of friends in high school. At Auburn University, Funk and Giddens met again. Fighting cancer, Funk needed assistance getting to classes. Giddens was working for the University driving a golf cart transporting students with physical challenges to their campus destinations.
“I’d wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail since the summer after high school graduation,” Giddens said. “When I began talking with Kayla regularly, I knew that raising money for her organization would be the perfect way to make my hike meaningful. I’d joked with my dad for a long time that if I graduated from college a semester early I’d have time to hike the Appalachian Trail before grad school. Every time I got new gear, he’d joke, ‘You’ll need that for the Appalachian Trail.’ I doubt he thought I’d ever start that hike.”
Over 2,000 miles later, John Giddens is impressed with his daughter. Most days, Jennifer Giddens hiked about 25 miles; her longest day was an impressive 37 miles.
“Doing it for the kids kept me going,” Giddens said. “Hiking the Appalachian Trail made me realize that I can meet any challenge.”
See more at https://thetrek.co/author/jennifer-giddens/