Christi Livingston has made her message clear without using words. Last month, the Burleson, Texas, woman who has Cerebral Palsy, completed the walkathon fundraiser for Next Step Women’s Center for the sixteenth year in a row. Such dedication would be impressive for anyone, but Livingston relies on a wheelchair for mobility. Next Step Women’s Center described Livingston’s accomplishment in a press release:
Livingston, who has Cerebral Palsy, participated in her 16th walkathon benefiting Next Step Women’s Center in Burleson on April 21, pushing herself backwards, inch-by-inch, in her manual wheelchair for the entirety of the two-mile course. While this would be a remarkable feat on any day, there’s one thing that makes this year even more remarkable: She did it in the rain.
Next Step Women’s Center is a pregnancy resource center that provides free medical and educational resources related to pregnancy and sexual health. Formerly known as Burleson Pregnancy Aid Center, the organization has been part of the North Texas community since 1986. The center offers pregnancy tests and ultrasounds, prenatal and parenting classes, referrals for adoption services, spiritual resources, perinatal hospice services, and more, all free of charge.
Over the course of her 16 walkathons, Livingston has raised an impressive $50,941 to support the work of the pregnancy resource center. The funds Livingston has raised over the years support the ongoing work of the Burleson center. Additionally, the funds from the walkathon support a new satellite clinic in Fort Worth that is better equipped to serve Spanish-speaking clients. Next Step Women’s Center Development and Marketing Director Susan Cloud told Texas Right to Life in an interview, “We had 2,340 client visits in 2017 alone, with hundreds of pregnancy tests and sonograms.”
In addition to these medical services, Next Step Women’s Center has an extensive educational program. Cloud described the parenting classes to Texas Right to Life saying, “We truly do believe that equipping parents to care for their babies helps prevent future abortions, because if they have a positive parenting experience, they are certainly less likely to abort in the future.” She added, “We are also involved in several local school districts, providing sexual risk avoidance education, and our ‘steps to sexual health’ course, which is usually done in a one-on-one setting with a client advocate, helps those who have endured sexual trauma find hope and healing.”
Livingston’s commitment to the Pro-Life organization is also deeply personal. She told Next Step Women’s Center last month, “This is my 16th year to be involved in the walk for life, because I feel very strongly that every unborn child has the right to life, even if they are going to be born with a disability.”
Through her example, Livingston has offered a message of courage and hope for people facing a disability or prenatal diagnosis. For the first seven years of participating in the walkathon, Livingston completed the course in her electric wheelchair. When her electric wheelchair broke in 2009, she might have ended her participation; concerned friends told her she was not strong enough to complete the two-mile course on her own. Undeterred, Livingston trained diligently with her assistant, Diana Smith, and achieved the strength necessary to complete the entire course in her manual wheelchair. Every year since then she has completed the course in her manual wheelchair, pushing herself inch-by-inch for the entire two miles.
Livingston’s dedication inspires the staff and volunteers of Next Step Women’s Center to achieve greater success. Cloud said, “Christi sets the fundraising bar pretty high, and it certainly encourages us to set high goals for ourselves, as well.” Livingston also reminds the community of the human lives they are trying to save. Next Step Women’s Center Executive Director Jane Burton captured the community’s feelings on Livingston’s accomplishment. She said, “I am in awe with Christi’s tenacity year after year. She is a remarkable woman who is willing to show how valuable Life is -no matter the disability.”
This year, Livingston raised $7,000 for the walkathon by handing out cards explaining her mission. Cloud explained, “Christi passes out her fundraising cards to everyone she meets, so it has surely helped spread the word about Next Step.” Still, many people in the community are not yet aware of Next Step Women’s Center and the services they offer. Cloud explained, “This is why we wanted to spread the word about Christi — because in addition to shining a light on her incredible accomplishments, we know that more people will ultimately learn about Next Step, as well.”
To learn more about Next Step Women’s Center, visit the organization’s website.