Community

First-ever Bremerton foster care walk takes to the streets

Walk Me Home kicks off at 10 a.m. Sept. 7.

Ask Mike Canfield how he got involved in foster care and he won’t hold back.

“It’s my wife’s fault,” he said.

Mike and Beth Canfield, of Tracyton, started as house parents in a group home for up to 10 severely emotionally and mentally disturbed adolescent boys in 1983. The Canfields then developed their foster home to work with young people stuck in the group care system.

The Canfields continued their work with the foster care program and are now co-presidents of the Foster Parent Association of Washington State.

“It just turned out we had a knack for it,” Mike said.

The Canfields are excited to host the first “Walk Me Home ... to the place I belong” event Monday, Sept. 7 in downtown Bremerton.

This is only the second year for the nationwide event and was held in Olympia and Chehalis last year. Mike said he wanted to host a walk in Bremerton and decided to coordinate it with the Blackberry Festival.

“More people would have access to it and about 50,000 people turn out for the festival,” he said. “There’s no guarantee of success though.”

The 5K walk is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., starting and finishing at the Louis Mentor Boardwalk. Mike said FPAWS’ original goal was $20,000, but the organization is now hoping to raise $6,000-$7,000 from the Bremerton walk.

“It’d be great if we get a couple hundred people,” Mike said. “I have enough T-shirts for 300 people.”

Money raised at Walk Me Home will go to the National Foster Parent Association, FPAWS and the Kitsap Foster Care Association.

With 10,000 children in foster care and 6,000 foster parents in Washington, Mike said he hopes Walk Me Home brings much-needed awareness to the issue.

“Awareness is one of the big parts of the walk,” he said. “It’s amazing how many people say, ‘what is foster care?’”

Mike said FPAWS’ biggest mission is to educate foster parents about the importance of their decisions to become involved with foster care.

“We’re trying to get people to understand that when kids come into foster care, they have needs,” Mike said. “The foster parents need to know what their abilities are and have the knowledge to handle that.”

Together, the Canfields train foster parents around the country. Three generations of Canfields have helped to improve children’s lives — Mike’s parents and the couples’ oldest son have fostered children and their two other sons chose social work as their careers, according to the FPAWS Web site, www.fpaws.org.

For more information or to register for Walk Me Home, visit www.walkmehome.org.

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