More than 7,000 residents will take to
parks, paths and trails across the Tucson area
They’ll gather to honor those who were killed and wounded during the Tucson shootings of Jan. 8, 2011, while celebrating the strength and resolve of the community in its aftermath.
Dubbed Beyond, the event will be held at 12 locations, and will include hikes, bike rides and other physical activities from Colossal Cave Mountain Park in Vail to the Wild Burro Trailhead in Marana and Saguaro National Park West.
Now in its third year, Beyond was launched on the first anniversary of the shootings as a way to help people come together and connect with others, said coordinator Michelle Crow.
“The idea was, wherever you lived, that there would be an event nearby,” Crow said. “You could go out and be with your neighbors, get outdoors and spend the day in a healthy way with your family and friends.”
It was a concept initially developed by Ross Zimmerman and Pam Golden, the father and stepmother of Gabe Zimmerman, the congressional aide who was killed along with five others at the “Congress on Your Corner” event on Jan. 8.
Thirteen other Tucsonans, including former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her successor, U.S. Rep. Ron Barber were wounded in the attack by Jared Lee Loughner, a mentally ill former college student who was sentenced in 2012 to spend the rest of his life in prison.
There were few things Ross Zimmerman enjoyed more in life that being active with his son, Gabe.The two would take trips to the Grand Canyon, where they would run from the North Rim to the South Rim.
“It was only 21 miles,” Ross said. “No big deal.”
Cycling was another favorite pastime.
“We were stuffing vans full of bikes and taking people up to Moab,” Zimmerman said. “We found out that the Slickrock Bike Trail is perfectly doable if you are willing to get off and walk in spots.”
After Gabe was killed, Ross and Golden worked with Golden’s cousin, Steve Golden, a senior staff member at the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance program, to create the Tucson Trails Tribute, a coalition of local agencies and organizations dedicated to honoring the victims of Jan. 8.
“We were focused on the idea that getting people out and active was a proactive mental and physical health tool,” Zimmerman said. “We were thinking about ways to make the population healthier.”
Its first major endeavor was Beyond.
More than 100 community groups participated in 36 different events its first year.
“There was even an event in Phoenix,” Crow said.
This year’s Beyond is more consolidated, 15 events at 12 locations, which was by design to provide a more central community feel.
Aside from the hikes, biking activities and runs, there will be a buffelgrass extraction event on “A” Mountain. Called “Buffelgrass and Brew,” it will feature craft-beer samples from the Sentinel Peak Brewing Co.
A free story-time session for kids will take place at Valley of the Moon fantasy park, 2544 E. Allen Road, meant to encourage reading among children.
Beyond’s main event will be held from noon to 3 p.m. at Armory Park downtown and will feature an array of activities, including nutrition and cooking demonstrations, dance performances, and jazzercise and Zumba classes. A health fair, spearheaded by Tucson Medical Center and Community Partnership of Southern Arizona, will take place on-site to provide information on free and low-cost wellness programs.
In addition, activities at both the nearby Armory Park Senior Center and Children’s Museum are on the agenda.
“If you want to play bocce ball, table tennis or try ballroom dancing, you can do that,” Crow said. “Or you could try double Dutch jump roping or watch dancing near the Children’s Museum. It is a positive way for us to create a foundation to help our community strive and hopefully prevent future tragedies.”
Suzi Hileman is coordinating Beyond’s “Stroll and Roll” event at Christina-Taylor Green Memorial Linear Park, which is named after Christina-Taylor Green, the youngest victim of the Jan. 8 shootings.
A retired social worker, Hileman was Green’s neighbor and took the 9-year-old that morning to the “Congress on Your Corner” event to meet Giffords. Hileman was shot three times. She remembers holding Green’s hand as the girl lay dying.
For Hileman, Beyond is more about the community coming together after the shooting.
“This is about moving beyond the tragedy, which was an aberration and not what Tucson is about,” she said. “It is a way to celebrate the fact that every time I walked down the street after being shot, people came to me and hugged me, said how sorry they were and wished me a quick recovery.”
The “Stroll and Roll” invites Tucsonans to come down on their bikes, roller-skates, on foot, or pushing baby strollers.
Chalk will be provided for those who want to leave messages of love and healing on the sidewalk.
People can gather and find comfort with one another at drawn circles called hug spots along the 3.1 mile circuit loop.
“I love the notion that Gabe’s family had of moving beyond and celebrating what’s wonderful about Tucson,” Hileman said. “The community really came together and for a long time, it was the warmest, most comfortable place I’ve ever lived in my life.”
Zimmerman plans on attending several Beyond events. He hopes to participate in the 5-mile social run at Saguaro National Park West and he is scheduled to speak on nutrition at the Armory Park Senior Center during the main event.
Zimmerman said his son would have enjoyed any one of the events planned.
“He would have thought this was a great thing,” he said.
As Beyond continues to evolve, Zimmerman hopes it becomes less about the shooting and more about the city growing healthier and stronger together.
“We shouldn’t forget Gabe or anyone else who perished or were hurt,” he said. “But we can’t change what happened. What we can do is move forward as a community.”