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Marystown man organizing child abuse awareness walk

Wally Pittman with the support of his girlfriend Conetta Wakeley has organized the first annual Miles for Smiles Awareness Walk.
Wally Pittman with the support of his girlfriend Conetta Wakeley has organized the first annual Miles for Smiles Awareness Walk.

MARYSTOWN, NL — It has been almost a year since Wally Pittman of Marystown revealed that he was a victim of child abuse.

Pittman, who was abused between the ages of four to 14, is using his own experience as the motivation to organize the first Miles For Smiles Awareness walk on the Burin Peninsula.
The event is set for Sunday, April 23, at the Track and Field Complex in Marystown.
After he revealed his own personal story, Pittman says he began to realize that he was not alone in this experience.
“I . . . started to realize that it wasn’t only myself out there, there was a lot more besides me out there.”
He credits the support of his girlfriend, Conetta Wakeley, in helping him cope.
“Thank God for her, she was right behind me (through) it all,” he said.
The pair said they are receiving a lot of support from the community, with member of the Marystown Volunteer Fire Department taking part in the event.
“We’re hoping to have a couple of RCMP Officers down there and a (police) car,” explained Pittman, “because there is going to be a lot of youngsters there and we want to make sure that they know that they shouldn’t be scared to go to the RCMP officers, they’re there to help.”
The Miles for Smiles Awareness Walk, which was first held to the province five years ago in St. John’s, aims to bring attention to the issue of child abuse.
After coming out about his own abuse Pittman contacted the St. John’s Chapter of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse (ASCA).
“We . . . had a meeting with Bev Moore (who’s) after doing a lot of stuff for Mile for Smiles herself,” explained Pittman. “She just finished a big walk last year, a 900km run from St. John’s to Port Au Basques.”
Moore will be the guest speaker for the Marystown event.
The event will also feature local performers, kids events, and a balloon-tying event, which is meant to show community togetherness.
Apart from the walk the couple have also started a Facebook group called True Blue, to further bring attention to the cause.
“We only set it up first just to promote the walk,” explained Wakeley.
She added that word of the group has travelled fast and they are looking at turning it into a non-profit group.
“Within three weeks we had a little over 2,400 members join,” added Pittman, “so it was a big thing.”
The group is attracting people from all over the province, and beyond, with members pledging their support for the Sunday’s walk.
“We are hoping to see a sea of blue when we look out,” said Pittman.
Since starting the group the couple has also had others reach out to them and share their own stories of abuse. Their goal is to set up a local chapter of ASCA.
“We’re actually starting our training on the 20th of May,” explained Wakeley.
Pittman added the ASCA prefers to have adult survivors of child abuse to train as facilitators.
“Who knows better than another survivor,” he said.
“I’m hoping that’s going to turnout and will be a big thing here, ’cause it’s needed here.”
Pittman said a support group for the Burin Peninsula is long overdue.
“This needed to be done. People don’t realize what effect it (abuse) has on them as they get older. It affects every part of your life.
“We know that there’s people like myself that are going through the same thing and they don’t have anywhere to turn here, they don’t have (any) support groups,” he said.
Pittman said on the Burin Peninsula help for victims of child abuse is limited to speaking with a counselor. While he does feel that it helpful, he also thinks it would be more beneficial to speak with others who have gone through a similar experience.
“This is why I came out. I’m hoping that it’s going to bring the people together to help each other. It’s a lot harder for one person to heal; it’s better to have a group and we can all heal together.”

colin.farrell@saltwire.com

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