Run Like a Girl helps women step toward health, housing

5K raises funds for program that caters to homeless women, helps get them fit

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian social issues & neighborhoods reporter

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Homelessness and a drug habit made it easy — too easy — for Patti Faulkner to get skinny. When she got off drugs and found a home, the pounds piled back on.

Faulkner isn't sorry -- she's happy just to be alive, she said — but she's also working hard to lighten up all over again, the healthy way.

Over the last several Friday nights, Faulkner got busy stretching, striding and running the track at Jefferson Middle School in Felida, along with other residents of Second Step Housing who are similarly looking to turn their lives around.

Second Step is a nonprofit housing agency that caters to homeless women and their families. It was created years ago by the YWCA Clark County and then spun off to become an independent nonprofit. Second Step has 11 houses and 37 permanent rental units, and its educational resources — parenting classes, good renter classes, individual case management — touch more than 400 people every year.

It also has Andy Orizotti, Second Step development officer by day, fitness instructor by night. Orizotti is a former University of Montana sprinter and high school track coach who now operates her own independent pilates business and teaches at Lake Shore Athletic Club.

It was Orizotti's idea to launch a Second Step fund-raising run that wouldn't just bring in some bucks — it would also get tenants moving.

The Run Like A Girl 5K walk/run is set for 9 a.m. June 10, beginning on East Fifth Street near Pearson Air Museum; registration opens at 7:30 a.m. The cost is $35 per individual or $10 for the one-mile Run Like A Kid event. There will be prizes for costumes. The idea is to keep it fun. Visit Run Like a Girl to learn more. (Men are welcome, too, of course).

"I thought, we can intertwine this event with an opportunity for our residents to take a step toward their own health," Orizotti said. Self-sufficiency is key to what Second Step strives to teach its tenants, she said, and one crucial key to self-sufficiency is good health.

Orizotti spread the word through Second Steps' various venues -- parenting classes, caseworkers, newsletters -- and got a swift response as residents started turning out for these regular Friday night training sessions. A smattering of Second Step staffers and some of Orizoitti's friends from the neighborhood usually show up, too.

The group always warms up with two striding laps around the quarter-mile track, followed by some stretching, capped off by as much running as they can stand. Over the weeks, the distances have been growing longer.

"For most of these women, it's the first time in their life they've ever committed to investing in their own health," Orizotti said.

"I've never done anything like this before," said Faulkner, 42, during the striding warm-up. "It's a little bit hard. I'm not only going to run -- I'm going to walk and run. But I'm going to finish."

Faulkner said she lost her home because of her addiction. She was homeless for four months before she found Second Step. "They saved my life," she said. "I guess I'm just doing this to prove I can." Over the last few weeks of training, she said, she's lost seven pounds.

Faulkner said she's inspired — and maybe a little intimidated — by the other women getting ready for Run Like A Girl. But Orizotti's friend Jessica Purdue watched Faulkner head off on another lap and said, "She doesn't know how inspiring she is to us."

Scott Hewitt: 360-735-4525; http://www.twitter.com/col_nonprofits;scott.hewitt@columbian.com.