Houston women bond through a weekly group walk

Houston women bond through a weekly group walk

Every Sunday morning, a diverse group of Houston women gather at Buffalo Bayou Park with one goal in mind: to walk. Only a few kilometers, no more than an hour, each woman moves at her own pace. No need to talk, no need to count steps, no expectation other than to walk together, as a community.

They’re called City Girls Who Walk, and in half a year, the group has grown to more than 200 members. The goal may seem simple—and it is, says founder Tiffany Nelson. But through this simplicity, a kind of synergy has emerged, which has led to new friendships, community programs and some special events.

To celebrate the end of the year, the group will host a special walk on Saturday, Dec. 31, at Allen Parkway’s Love Lock Bridge. Participants are encouraged to bring a lock or memento to be tied to the bridge in honor, memory or celebration of someone or something from 2022.

Nelson first got the idea for the Houston group after seeing similar events in Chicago and New York City in early 2022. “I saw how special it was and I wanted the women of Houston to have the same opportunity,” she said. “I waited about a month for someone else to take off (in Houston), and when no one did, I stepped up.”

Walking City Girls

Walking City Girls

Walking City Girls/Tiffany Nelson

The first CGWWH event was May 1, 2022. Eighteen women showed up, having heard about the event through social media. Since then, the girls of the city have walked every week. Walkers come from all backgrounds and range in age from 18 to 80 years old. (Kids and well-behaved dogs are also welcome.)

“There’s no agenda, it’s just literally getting together and walking. It’s that simple,” Nelson says. “It takes a while for people to figure it out. And that’s when the magic happens. Nothing is expected of anyone. There are no requirements, no membership entry, it’s free and open to the public. Just show up and walk in and we’ll be there to walk with you. It gives people this level of acceptance and freedom that is shocking to them.”

The group has created a community for women, Nelson says, and a sense of safety in walking together. After each walk, women usually gather at Blendin Coffee, 3201 Allen Parkway, to socialize, though that’s not required either.

“It’s very special to see what happens on the walk,” she says. “At least half the people on every walk are new to City Girls, so they come alone and don’t know anyone. And then they’re having coffee and then you hear about the weekend trip and you hear they’re going to dinner together. and being in a book club together. There have been so many friendships made by people who otherwise wouldn’t have met.”

Several other activities have grown out of the original Sunday morning walkers. CGWWH occasionally hosts pop-up events like hiking the Memorial Park mountain bike trails or midweek hikes. The group also hosts a monthly brunch and monthly Wellness Wednesdays, which focus on other forms of movement, such as yoga.

Spin-off groups have also been formed. Now there’s a City Girls Who Walk Katy and a Baytown Babes Who Walk — both groups formed with the idea of ​​making walking accessible to women who might not want to drive to Buffalo Bayou Park.

City Girls has partnered with several community businesses, including Blendin Coffee and Outdoor Voices, who co-hosted a walk last summer. The group chooses a new local restaurant to support with each monthly brunch gathering and spotlights a locally owned business each week with their #WomenOwnedWednesday initiative. Nelson said her goal is to partner with organizations “aligned with our values ​​such as educating girls, supporting single mothers and providing resources to historically underserved individuals and families.” And City Girls also hosts school supply drives, nonpartisan get-out-the-vote events and fundraisers.

Walking City Girls

Walking City Girls

Walking City Girls/Tiffany Nelson

Karla Soto first joined the group in June. The “adopted Texan,” as she calls herself, moved to Houston from Puerto Rico in 2018, not long after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. “I wanted to start a new chapter in my life, so I took a leap of faith,” she said. Then Covid hit, making it difficult for the fledgling Texan to meet new people. When she saw CGWWH on social media, she was immediately drawn to the group’s message of inclusion. After her first walk, she was “instantly hooked.” “Walking heals you physically and mentally,” she says.

Because many of the walkers are first-timers alone, Soto saw the need for an ambassador-like role to help welcome people and answer questions. She is now responsible for building community for the group. “It’s a safe space,” she says. “There’s no competition, it’s come as you are. You go at your own pace and pace.”

Michelin Willie also quickly graduated from foot soldier to volunteer with the group. She appeared on her first walk, in July 2022, a little late. She and four other women ended up walking alone, but eventually caught up with the main group and stopped for coffee. She was also drawn to the inclusive ethos of the group and wanted to lead a walk in Hermann Park. That walk, which paid tribute to Beyonce rebirth album, was one of the group’s most popular to date. “I like to go for a weekly walk,” she says. “It’s very low pressure and it’s always there.”

Nelson sees the group as unofficial ambassadors for the city of Houston.”Our walks get a lot of women out into parks and trails that they might not have experienced otherwise,” she says. “We feel like we’ve become the city’s ‘joyful benefactor’ by enhancing the public spaces we walk in, the city’s natural beauty and the public amenities available in Houston.”

In addition to the Love Lock walk on December 31, the group is also looking forward to the new year. They will host a cheer station for the Houston Marathon on January 15th at Allen Parkway and Rochow Street (that week’s walk will take place on Saturday). They will begin a monthly collaborative walk with Bee Abled, a non-profit organization that supports athletes with disabilities and their families. Nelson also wants to create a scholarship program for young women.

More than anything, though, she says she’ll stick with the no-pressure formula that has made CGWWH a hit. “Beauty is in simplicity.”

Walking City Girls The Love Lock Walk will begin at 9 a.m. Dec. 31 at the Gus Wortham Fountain, 2904 Allen Parkway. Walks in January and February will start at 10am on Sundays, also meeting at Wortham Fountain.

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