Beyond Tucson honors those touched by the January 8, 2011 shooting during “Congress on Your Corner” involving then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. And the event remembers how the community came together in the aftermath.
A dozen outdoor activities around town are encouraging people to get outside, spend time with loved ones, come together as a community and remember what’s important in life, according Beyond Tucson director Michelle Crow.
“The history of Beyond started with a tragedy,” she said. “The way that affected our community was so profound.”
A key player, Crow reached out to different groups until there were 36 different organizations that wanted to hold Beyond events.
The family of Gabe Zimmerman, Giffords’ 30-year-old director of community outreach who was killed at the shooting, joined together with a broad-based coalition of healthcare providers, public land managers and nonprofits to start Beyond on the one-year anniversary of the tragedy.
Ross Zimmerman, Gabe’s father, is an evolutionary biologist and long-distance runner. He understands how diet, activity and engagement play into overall health and wellbeing.
“If your brain and body are working better and you have good engagement with the people around you, things tend to go better,” he said.
Ross encourages people to find a Beyond event that resonates with them, get out and have fun.
One of the endurance events taking place this year is the Arizona Trail Hike or Ride, inviting people to walk, mountain bike or ride horseback from the Gabe Zimmerman Davidson Canyon Trailhead, onto a stretch of Arizona National Scenic Trail about 25 miles southeast of Tucson.
Previously called Davidson Canyon, the trailhead was renamed in honor of Gabe’s love of hiking and the outdoors. Organizers will be at the trailhead—which now features a memorial with a photo of a smiling Gabe—from 9:30 a.m. until noon on Saturday, Jan. 13, serving refreshments. The trailhead is located in Davidson Canyon, Vail, Arizona 85641.
Another event is the Stroll and Roll, from 9 a.m. to noon at Christina-Taylor Green Memorial River Park, also this Saturday, dedicated to the youngest victim of Tucson’s tragedy.
Nine-year-old Christina-Taylor was a guardian of children, says the event coordinator Patricia Maisch, who was in line to speak with Giffords when the gunman opened fire. Maisch recalls a story from Christina-Taylor’s mom Roxanna Green: A boy who went to school with Christina-Taylor recounted getting bullied on the school bus. Christina-Taylor saw it, sat right down next to him and did the same every day.
The Christina-Taylor Green Park, dedicated last April, is a two-acre parcel on the southwest corner of North Shannon and West Magee roads, close to the Green home—and where Christina-Taylor and her brother used to play.
Last year, the park was beautified. In a private-public partnership between Pima County, the Green family and the business community, benches and picnic tables, a butterfly garden, botanical trails and a statue of two children playing were added to the site.
At the event, there will be sidewalk chalk to write messages of love and remembrance, balloons, face painting and other family activities. The Green family and event coordinators will also provide water bottles, coffee and cookies.
Participants are encouraged to bring their running shoes, strollers, wheelchairs, bicycles or roller skates. They can stroll and roll the Cañada del Oro Wash, from Christina-Taylor Green Linear Park trailhead, at the corner of North Shannon and West Magee roads, down a 3.1-mile paved trail that runs to Thornydale Road and can be accessed at either end.
The event is a time to remember when the community came together after a tragedy, Maisch said.
“It’s a wonderful community project that honors that little girl,” she said. “Enjoy a sunny day. Take a walk or take a roller skate.”
Since the tragedy, Maisch has become an activist for gun-violence prevention. She used to embrace the word “advocate,” but since mass shooting have become more frequent, she took on the word “activist.”
Maisch said she doesn’t believe in restricting sensible gun ownership but wants to keep guns out of the hands of those who would harm themselves or others.
“She would have been an advocate for the young man who killed her, but neither of them can do anything now,” she said about Christina-Taylor. “So we have to do it for them.”
After the shooting, there was a renewed discussion on public health and the intersection between physical and mental health. Being outdoors and with others helps people with depression and anxiety, Crow said.
In Beyond’s fifth year, the stakeholders came together to strategize expanding Beyond into year-round programing, and what came out of that was the Beyond Rx Health Formula: explore in nature, pick an activity you like and move your body, nourish with healthy food and connect with the community.
The year-round Beyond Challenge incentivizes and encourages ways to use the Health Formula. People can sign up and participate in suggested activities. Participants collect stamps at the activities and are eligible to win prizes. They also get discounts at participating local stores.
Beyond Tucson is about getting beyond the tragedy, Crow said.
“Once you wipe away all the busyness of life, the dearest memories are really just the cherished times you spend with one another,” Crow said.
For a full list of activities, or to sign up for the Beyond Challenge, go to beyond-tucson.org.