SHERIDAN — Running is an emotional journey for Ashley Powell. With each step, she is honoring her own loved ones, and the loved ones of others who have fallen in the line of duty.
Powell’s mother, father and uncle all worked in the wildland fire community. Her father and uncle were firefighters; her mother worked in dispatch. She, too, has worked on the fire lines.
Her uncle, Ed Hutton, was killed in the line of duty in the Yellowstone fires of 1988. Following his death, Powell said, the Wildland Firefighter Foundation did a lot for her family by keeping his memory alive and honoring him.
For that reason, Powell started what she calls, “Two Little Feet for the Fallen.”
“I started ‘Two Little Feet’ to give back to the foundation and help pay back to families who have lost someone by keeping their memory alive and just letting them know that those heroes will always be remembered,” Powell said. “I don’t want any fallen hero to be forgotten. I run for the fallen because they aren’t here and they can’t run. I’m honoring them for what they have done and giving their life.”
Powell is tracking her running journey — the ups and downs, blisters and victories — in a blog, twolittlefeetforthefallen.com and on Facebook, www.facebook.com/twolittlefeetforthefallen. Her goal is to run at least 12 races that are half-marathons or more in distance this year.
For each race she gets new shirts made with the names put on the back of who she is honoring that day. All of the fallen for 2013 will be carried on Ashley’s back at one point throughout 2014 races.
“After the races I will do a blog about that race and whom I carried on my back,” she said. “I make sure before the race that people know who I will be carrying at each race on my blog. On the website there is a link to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation to donate to their foundation.”
Powell asked that in the instructions on the donation page, those who give should note that they are donating to Two Little Feet for the Fallen, so that at the end of the year they can tell Powell how much she raised.
“I don’t see a dime, all of the money goes to the foundation,” Powell said.
She pays for her transportation and entrance fee to each race and she doesn’t have any sponsors.
“Even if I did have someone who wanted to sponsor me, I would rather have them give that money to the foundation and not myself,” Powell said. “I don’t want to be the hero, I am running for the heroes.”
Powell never ran track or cross country in high school, but four years ago she decided to start running to help get in shape for the summer fires that she would be fighting. She wanted to be able to keep up with the men, and just fell in love with running.
She then put the two things together that she loves in order to help remember those who have lost their lives on the line.
“When I started ‘Two Little Feet’ I was approached by Julia Veseth to run for her sister Anne Veseth,” Powell said. “This is when I knew ‘Two Little Feet’ would be bigger than I could imagine. On April 6th I will be running with Julia, to carry Anne on my back for her 22nd birthday that would have been on April 5th.”
That race will be the Platte River Half Marathon in Littleton Colorado.
For the 19 Arizona firefighters who lost their lives last June, Powell will honor them at two races this summer. She plans to honor half of the men at the beginning of June 2014 and the other half later in the month.
While most of the time Powell runs alone, or with 3,000 of her closest friends at the races, she has had others join her for the journey.
“The race that I just did in Moab, Utah, was the first race that I had people besides my family members there at the race cheering me on, who knew the men that I carried on my back,” Powell said.