ATLANTA - Meredith Emerson's friends have been trying to heal for the last five months, attempting to cope with her brutal murder in a secluded Dawson County forest in January.
A group of 20 friends and family decided the best way to keep Meredith's memory alive was to do something that Meredith would have done. So they have established Right To Hike Inc., a non-profit group with several goals, including that of keeping hikers safe.
Julia Karrenbauer was Meredith's best friend and roommate, and she said one mission for Right to Hike is to buy spot pagers for hiking outposts. Spot, or Satellite Personal Outdoor Trackers, basically act as GPS devices in areas where cell phones don't work. Emerson was abducted on a hiking trail on Blood Mountain in Union County, an area where cell phone coverage is inconsistent, at best. Her body was found several days later in Dawson County.
Karrenbauer said that each device costs about $150 and yearly fees are $100. "We're hoping to purchase the devices, give them (the hiking outposts) the year's start-up, and then as hikers come through and rent them, then, they'll be self-sustaining."
In addition to funding the spot pagers, the group has established the Meredith Hope Emerson Memorial Award for Study Abroad at the University of Georgia. The award will help students who want to study in a French speaking country. The third goal is to help implant microchips in dogs. The group selected that goal because Meredith's dog, Ella, had been implanted with a microchip, something that helped investigators.
The launch event to fund all of these projects takes place June 25. Karrenbauer said that some 40 Applebee's Restaurants in Atlanta and north Georgia will donate a portion of proceeds to Right to Hike Inc. Diners must go to the group's Web site and download a coupon to present to the restaurant in order for the group to get the donation. Right to Hike's website is www.righttohike.com.
Karrenbauer said establishing a foundation like Right to Hike has been a healing process for her. "Nobody can make sense out of a horrific situation like this," she noted. "Focusing on this (Right to Hike Inc.) and trying to do it for Meredith has helped a lot of people try to move on."
On the Net:
Right to Hike. http://www.righttohike.com