Walking across the state to foster awareness
Glenn Koster hiked Monday from Cottonwood Falls to the city of Marion — more than 20 miles —to raise awareness for foster care.
Koster, from Hutchinson, has been walking every other Monday since 2016 as part of his Charity Steps program.
“I started walking in 2012 as a fitness challenge,” he said. “I finished it, and that’s when I wondered what else I could do with it. I wasn’t ready to stop.”
He decided to put his effort toward foster care. He was put in the foster system twice: once when he was abandoned by his birth parents as a baby, then when he was taken from an abusive situation at 6 years old.
“I realized many years ago that I could not be a foster parent,” he said. He is overcoming an alcohol addiction and used to abuse substances. “So I thought, ‘How else can I help?’”
He decided to walk 4,310 miles in one year.
His past trips have been from Oklahoma to Nebraska, from Missouri to Colorado (where he raised $10,000 for foster care programs), and from Florida to Washington. He will hit 20,000 miles next month, averaging 22 miles daily.
“Today’s 21.2 miles was nothing,” he said Monday.
Walking along highways attracts attention. He tells people who pull over what they can do to help children in foster care. That can include volunteering as a foster parent or a respite parent, allowing families who have foster children and biological children to take a break. Volunteers also can become a Big Brother or Big Sister, as his wife, Charlcie, did. Or they can become a prayer warrior or a financial provider.
“These kids frequently come into the system with nothing,” Koster said. “They’ll get one present at Christmas, and one on their birthday.”
Koster said more than 70% of children in foster care will end up in correctional facilities and more than 90% will go into poverty because of a lack of emotional or financial support. He has experienced firsthand how foster children struggle with a sense of belonging.
This year, Koster wanted to take his project to his local community.
“I tell everyone that no matter what your situation is, you can do something,” he said.