Stephanie has dedicated her birthday to help communities in Uganda gain access to clean drinking water. She is a true adventurer and an inspiration to us all. Better to read her story from her words:
My name is Stephanie Lorenze and I am from Morgantown, WV. On March 3rd, 2018 I started the most amazing, challenging, and rewarding adventure of my life. I had no idea what I was getting myself into and had never been on a backpacking trip before. I just simply decided that I wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail, so I showed up to Springer Mountain in Georgia and started walking with the intention of hiking all the way to Mount Katahdin in Maine. I walked through the snow, rain, and sunshine. I was either freezing cold, soaking wet, or drenched in sweat. I was swarmed by flies, gnats, and mosquitos. There were times where I tripped, stumbled, and fell. I found that through it all and even on my hardest days that I was still smiling and so unbelievably happy. The happiest I have ever been in my entire life. My worst days on the A.T. were better than my best days in my normal life. It is truly amazing to me how little you need in life to be happy. I am beyond grateful to have had this life experience and to have met so many amazing people along the way. It’s crazy what you can accomplish when you put your mind to it. On August 21st, 2018 I summited Mount Katahdin and finished my A.T. thru hike. It took me 5 months, 2 weeks, and 4 days (172 days) to walk from Springer Mountain to Mount Katahdin. I am thankful to have found my passion in life and that I was able to find the courage to follow through with this hike despite all the people telling me that I was crazy and that it could not be done. If anything, I encourage you all to do the same. If you have a goal, go for it. No matter what the outcome at least you can say you tried and that you learned something about yourself. Much love and thank you to everyone who supported me throughout my journey. For my 27th birthday this year, I'm asking for donations to Missioncleanwater. I've chosen this nonprofit because their mission means a lot to me. If you have the time to read about James and his mission, please do. It is very inspiring. There were times on my Appalachian trail thru-hike where it was extremely hot outside and I was running low on water. The next water source was either out of the way, not reliable, or non-existent. Luckily, throughout some stretches of the trail that were low on water, there were trail angels that went out of their way to provide water caches to hikers. These selfless acts of kindness helped restore my faith in humanity. It also really put things into perspective for me. It brought to my attention the everyday things that we take for granted. We don’t have to worry about clean water here, and no person anywhere else in the world should. For my hike, I chose to be out in the middle of the woods and to deal with not always having reliable drinking water. For communities in Uganda and Kenya, they have no choice. They have to deal with not having clean water to drink. These men, woman, and children have to walk miles a day just to get water to drink. I want them to have a choice, like me. I don’t want them to worry about something that is essential to survival. The few times I had to worry about finding water on the trail were nerve wracking and I can’t imagine having to worry about that every day. In preparing for my attempt at thru-hiking the Continental Divide Trail this year, I realize that the water sources will be even more scarce and unreliable than on the Appalachian Trail. This next hike is not going to be just for me, it is also to raise awareness about these communities that are without clean drinking water and to help raise money to fix this problem. Any donation will help me to reach my goal to help these people.