Spotlight: Beth Grierson of Wilderness Heals

BethGriersonPhotoSomerville is a city known for its diversity, but it is also filled with citizens willing to take action. Among these city trailblazers is Beth Grierson, a Somerville native who is willing to (literally) take a “hike” towards ending homelessness and domestic violence.

Through her involvement with a hike called Wilderness Heals, sponsored by The Elizabeth Stone House, Grierson is working with other women striving to end social injustice. By a fund raising requirement of $1,500 for each woman completing the hike, The Elizabeth Stone House is using the funds to provide necessary resources for those in need that rely on their services for assistance. Scout Magazines chatted with Grierson, and her positive attitude and commitment to service was clear through her answers.

How did you get involved with the Wilderness Heals hike and the Elizabeth Stone House?

I originally heard about Wilderness Heals through a friend who was involved with The Elizabeth Stone House. She had many leadership roles throughout the years, but when she mentioned Wilderness Heals it sounded like a fun way for me to start getting involved. I was originally interested in the physical challenge, but the more I heard about The Elizabeth Stone House, the more I felt like it was an organization I wanted to support. The way that they approached the mental and emotional health of their residents – with an understanding of the connections between violence, trauma, poverty, racism, sexism and homophobia and how they impacts one’s mental health. Their multi-dimension approach was really appealing to me. Too many people I know and love have suffered, escaped, or survived violent situations, and I want to do my part to help with these issues.

What are your ties to Somerville? Do you see the Somerville community struggling with these issues?

My partner and I have lived in Davis for about 15 years now, and we lived near Union Square for eight years before that. Also, while there certainly are people in Somerville struggling with homelessness, domestic violence and their aftermath, the issues are sadly not specific to anywhere.

Have you completed this hike before, and if so was it rewarding for you?

This year will be my 13th Wilderness Heals hike (14 if you count the year I ran base camp). I’ve been a hiker, a Team Leader, and a Coordinator. It has been incredibly rewarding – it feels good to support The Elizabeth Stone House and the women and families they serve. It has also been personally rewarding. Wilderness Heals has absolutely helped me take on all kinds of new challenges – pushing my physical limits, learning leadership skills, occasionally pushing emotional buttons – while the Wilderness Heals community gave me the support I needed to deal with them. I’ve discovered a real love of hiking, and it’s always exciting to help other participants get into hiking as well. I’ve made some life-long friends, and I’ve just had A LOT of fun.

How exactly does the hike work in terms of fundraising and executing?

The event itself is a 3-day, 2-night hike in the White Mountains – most participants will be staying in the Appalachian Mountain Club’s huts, but some of us will be backpacking.  Hikers are required to participate in at least one training hike prior to the event (which not only helps with your physical preparation, it gives us a sense of what the pace and hiking style of each participant is in relation to other women doing the hike) and raise $1,500.  There’s lots of support for training and fundraising. There are both groups of volunteers dedicated to organizing training hikes, as well as women who are mentoring new hikers. We encourage all hikers to share their experiences and help each other out. Although I’ve been doing this for years, I still learn new things from other women on the trail, and that’s very rewarding.

The 2013 Wilderness Heals hike with be July 19th-21st. Any woman who meets the necessary physical and emotional requirements is welcome to participate. To learn more, visit If you wish to donate, you can visit Grierson’s fundraising page at

– Jen Morgan