After surviving through her own sexual assault, a former Pentictonite is hoping to raise awareness and funds for other survivors through the South Okanagan Women in Need Society, along with another Vancouver charity while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.
Alyssa Kroeker aims to tackle the whole trail starting at the end of March, which spans 4,265 kilometers from Mexico to Canada, entering into Manning Park.
Kroeker lived in Penticton from grade eight to grade 12, attending Penticton Secondary School before moving to Vancouver following her graduation.
“I decided that I was going to do this hike is because I'm a victim of sexual assault,” she shared.
After her assault, Kroeker was at a point in her life where she could not get herself to step outside to take her dog to go pee.
“I was just stuck in my bed not being able to go anywhere.”
She ended up seeing the movie Wild, which captures a memoir about a thousand-mile hike along the PCT and found herself looking into the journey herself.
“I [found] this drive or this fire in me that I was like, ‘I could do this.’ Then, with my own reasons of wanting to take back my life and my power back after that had been taken from me from a sexual assault, I started to think of ways that I can maybe help other people that have been assaulted.”
During her time in Vancouver, Kroeker had received counselling services from the WAVAW Rape Crisis Centre, a non-profit organization that specializes in supporting survivors of sexual assault.
“After my assault, they (WAVAW) were a really big supporter. So that's why I want to support them and give back to them. But, SOWINS is the main one because we don't have as many people that are able to donate to SOWINS because Penticton is so much smaller than Vancouver is.”
SOWINS shared that Kroeker had reached out to them first, wanting to help the local organization.
“It's wonderful on lots of levels. It's wonderful for the donations of course, but it's also wonderful that she has courage to come forward and share her story,” Marni Adams, the fund development advisor said.
“I think she's a very courageous person and taking the time to bring this to the forefront is so important for everybody, but also for her as a young woman. I think it's really incredible to see her do this.”
Kroeker speaks of the strength she gets from hiking and the empowerment she’s felt.
She began to find her love of hiking in 2020, starting off with a 35 kilometer day hike and moving into overnight backpacking trips.
“I did my first camping trip with my dog, my first backpacking trip with my dog, and then the one that really turned the corner for me was when I did the Rockwall Trail in the Kootenays near Banff and that was a five day solo trip.”
“There are no words for how amazing that trip was for me, it was absolutely incredible.”
Now she plans to take on a six month hike solo.
“The longest backpacking trip that I've ever done is five days and now I'm going to do 180 days. It's quite funny because in my head I'm like, if I was starting to go a little crazy talking to myself after five days, just imagine what it was going to be after 180 days,” Kroeker added with a laugh.
She will be driving down to the start of the hike with her boyfriend, with a pack full of the lightest gear she can find. Throughout her journey, Kroeker will have to hitchhike, organize food supplies, get winter gear and track her progress.
“One of my biggest concerns is being a solo female about to do this hike, especially with the hitchhiking that I'm going to have to do…especially taking all these precautions as a female versus if I was a male to do this hike.”
Kroeker will be documenting her journey online and through her instagram.
“I have a website that I'm going to be doing with my day to day stuff. Going to keep it very, very raw.”
More than anything, she hopes her journey will be able to make an impact.
“Hopefully it can reach enough people that I can get donations for SOWINS. But then also so that women, non binary and even men that have been assaulted can see my story and find some sort of strength or inspiration from it so that they can have their own moment of finding themselves again and finding their power.”
Her goal currently is to raise $5,000 through her GoFundMe.
“For the GoFundMe, everything from that money is going strictly to those two charities,” Kroeker said. “To get the $5,000 goal would be great and then to have it hopefully go past that, that would be really good because it's going to be six months of me doing this.”
“Hopefully as I keep on going and people see that I'm truly completing this trail and everything, they'll be more inclined to support and really push for what I'm trying to achieve.”
Kroeker will also have a paypal linked in her Instagram for people who want to send her a little support out on the trail, by buying her a meal or a beer the next time she hits a town along the way.
“It's also for every single person who has been assaulted who's following along on my journey and seeing all this happening.”