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Wednesday, February 8, 2023
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Community Takes a Giant Step Toward Peace

Participants follow the Million Step March route through the Charlotte Amalies waterfront.St. Thomas’s first Million Steps for Peace Walk covered an 18-mile route ascross the island Saturday, gathering participants and supporters along the way while providing soulful inspiration at rest stops across the island.

Participants walked, jogged and ran from Fort Christian through Bovoni, and from Lindquist Beach to Fort Mylner, with one common purpose in mind; to raise awareness and bring a halt to gun-related homicides in the Virgin Islands.

This was the inaugural year for the walk, which started small – roughly 30 entrants started in the pre-dawn hours at Fort Christian parking lot. The crowd grew throughout the day, with more than 100 jubilant walkers crossing the finish line at the University of the Virgin Islands campus.

There they gathered in prayer and the hope that their collective message of peaceful conflict resolution was clearly received by residents’ throughout the community.

The event is the creation of Celia Carroll, executive director of Mothers Against Guns, a not-for-profit organization that has provided more than $40,000 in local scholarships from the Jason Carroll Memorial Fund. Carroll lost her son Jason to gun violence in 2000. In his memory, the fund provides a full one-year scholarship for a Virgin Islands high school senior to attend UVI.

“Enough is enough,” said Carroll. “Lot’s of people are hurting and the gun shots we all hear at night are a constant reminder that there is work yet to be done to rid our islands of senseless violence.”

Organizers chose the lengthy route around St. Thomas to pass through all of the high population centers and near most of the schools and public housing complexes. As the participants walked through the various communities they wished to bring the message of peace through walk, song and prayer and to encourage more discussion about the effects of violence in the Virgin Islands.

Relay teams from local businesses, public utilities and the Army National Guard passed the baton off to waiting teammates at three-mile intervals at six water stations along the way. Roosevelt Park station manager Shirley Sadler was on hand with her son Khallid Mills to hand out water and T-shirts while filling the air with recorded gospel hymns.

Walkers were encouraged to sign posters at each stop. Some listed the names of lost loved ones and dedicated the day to their memory.

“We are here to empower our children through education and community involvement,” said Sadler. “We pray for unity and for the families who have lost loved ones to violence.”

The Virgin Islands Police Department recorded 59 homicides in 2012, of which only six were vehicular homicides. Of those, 30 were on St. Thomas, 28 were on St. Croix and one was on St. John.

Additional fundraising and awareness events are scheduled throughout the year, including an annual two-mile walk/run in the spring. More information is online at www.vimothersagainstguns.org

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