Local woman founded group in effort to heal after loss of her young son
Hull resident Mikey Walker founded the nonprofit Kerry Jon Walker Fund in memory of her son in 2010 in an effort to provide financially challenged Boston-area children an opportunity to build a sense of global awareness by helping struggling teens living in a village in east-central Africa.
Once a year, a group of students accompanies Walker to poverty-stricken Rwanda, where they lend a helping hand to vulnerable teens living in the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village and, in turn, learn about their culture and food and how to speak some words of their language.
“Through this service, my broken heart has been healing” in the years since her son’s passing in 1996 at age 20, Walker says.
Another activity that helped her find healing earlier on was a women’s African drumming group led by Sunset Point resident Irene Baird in the late 1990s. “I loved the feeling of the drum and was drawn to the African rhythms as well as to the camaraderie I found in the group,” Walker recalls.
After meeting Baird’s teacher, an associate professor at Berklee College of Music at the time, she decided in the early 2000s to join one of the trips he organized annually for students to Guinea, West Africa, where he was born, to learn more about the African culture and the history of drumming.
“That experience changed my life,” Walker says. “What touched me the most was that most of the people in Guinea had so little, and yet they offered to share their bowl of rice with us at the end of the day.”
The following year Walker returned to Guinea with the same group of people, bringing medical supplies, clothing, shoes, and stuffed Beanie Babies for the kids and paid for some of the children to go to school ($50 per semester plus the cost of uniforms), which most could not afford to pay on their own.
“Friends, family members, and others would give us items to take back and make donations to help the residents of Guinea during our subsequent trips, and the thought came to me, ‘There are the makings for a charity in all of this,'” Walker remembers.
From there the Kerry Fund was created with the mission of promoting programs that improve health, education, and economic opportunity for those in need. In cooperation with the Boston Public Schools, several students were chosen about 10 years ago to make the first trip to Africa to perform community service, paid for by the Kerry Fund.
Rwanda was chosen instead of Guinea because there is an orphanage there serving 500 Rwandan teens. “This village was the right match for our group,” Walker explains. “Our kids worked in the kitchen. There was no refrigeration, and there were wood-burning stoves, and feeding 500 teens three times a day was not an easy task, but they did it.”
The Kerry Fund students also spent time with Rwandan families, bonding, learning their culture and customs, and traveling to rural villages to help out for a day, from milking cows to fetching a load of wood from a mile away.
“These opportunities inspire students to realize the impact they could make as alumni and also support their futures as [potential] local and global leaders for change,” Walker says.
The new group of Boston-area students that travels to Rwanda every year shares similar experiences and lessons with those who have already made the trip. “This program gives them a global experience they couldn’t have imagined for themselves,” Walker says.
The Kerry Fund’s philanthropic work has included donating 3,000 pounds of books, maps, and educational materials as well as school uniforms to village schools in Guinea.
Walker moved to Hull in 1995 after accepting a job at Old Colony Montessori School in Hingham. She retired two years ago but plans to stay in Hull. “I hope I never have to leave,” she says.
Walker is not the only Hullonian involved with the Kerry Fund. Residents Margaret Vaughan, Laurie Sprague, Nanci Jaye, and Karen Weisenchan sit on the board and share Walker’s enthusiasm and dedication to helping underserved youth – from the Boston area and in Rwanda.
‘Walk the World’ fundraiser in May to support cultural trips for students
Residents of Hull, other South Shore communities, and beyond are encouraged to participate in a Kerry Jon Walker “Walk Around the World” fundraiser, a one-month challenge from May 1-31, organized by the nonprofit’s founder, Mikey Walker, who lives in town.
The concept behind the event is for participants to collectively walk 24,901 miles, which is equal to the earth’s circumference.
The proceeds from the walk will help fund opportunities for global awareness through intercultural learning trips for Boston-area students.
Those planning to join in this event can walk, jog, or run anywhere they choose, anytime during the month of May.
“This a good reason for people to get outside” after being cooped up all winter. “Life doesn’t stop during a pandemic,” says Mikey Walker, who created the fund in memory of her son, Kerry. “To Hull residents, I say, ‘Go walk the beach!'”
Among the Kerry Fund’s fundraisers have been a cocktail party, art auctions, kids’ fairs, and, in January 2020, a pre-pandemic “Messages from Heaven” event hosted at The Red Parrot, featuring inspirational speaker Sandy Alemian.
The fund also received a $100,000 Cummings Foundation grant, which is allocated each year to 100 local charities. The Kerry Fund grant will be awarded in $20,000 increments over five years.
Visit thekerryfund.org/walk-around-the-world to register. Individuals can register as a gift donor, walker, group walk organizer, or as an individual with pledged sponsors.
During the month of May, the fund will email participants once a week requesting a miles-walked report logged by each one doing the walk.
Participants are encouraged to share their journey on Facebook and Instagram, using the hashtag, #walkaroundtheworld.
For more information or to support the Kerry Fund, visit thekerryfund.org or follow the fund on Facebook.