Little's big footsteps forward for Robin's Nest

Apr. 03, 2014 @ 06:45 AM

Alisha Little says she has always been running. It's one of the things she does for herself.

Her job, and one of the things she does for others, is working with children who have been victims of physical or sexual abuse.

On April 24, she will blend the two and take on the Boston Marathon while wearing colors in support of Robin’s Nest Children’s Advocacy Center in Lenoir.

“I ran before I walked whenever I was a baby,” Little said in a recent interview. She was cool and sporty in a print coat with her hair thrown up in a bun, and she loved to talk about running. "I’ve always been a runner. I mean, I went from crawling to I just stood up and took off running. I never walked."

Little was an all-state champion during high school and picked up a track scholarship from North Carolina State University. She transferred to Appalachian State University three semesters later to pursue teaching, but she never stopped running until senior year. While she picked up cycling and performing in triathlons, Little will always be a runner.

But she didn't decide to run in Boston until last year's bombing near the finish line of the marathon.

“As an advocacy thing, I decided that day that I really wanted to be there next year,” Little said. “So, that’s what started this whole journey.”

Little will wear blue and a guardian angel medallion in honor of Robin's Next, a non-profit group that helps children who have been sexually or physically abused. She began working there as an intern in August 2012, the same time she began work on her master’s degree at Appalachian.

"Everything that we do there, it’s very selfless and filled with heart. We may not understand everything that they’ve gone through, but it’s about lending a hand and really being there and being with someone who has gone through just a traumatic experience. That’s what keeps me waking up every day and wanting to go in and support the work that we do there,” she said.

Robin’s Nest tries to bring social services, law enforcement, prosecutors, the schools and medical officials together to move through each case with as little added trauma for the children as possible, executive director Ervil Anderson said.

"The children are traumatized by abuse. The system doesn’t need to traumatize them again,” she said.

To volunteer with Robin’s Nest, it takes a strong heart to listen to each child’s story. When asked how volunteers remain brave in front of the children, Anderson whispered, with tears shining in her eyes, “Sometimes, we don’t.”

“Some of the stories we hear about things that happened to children are heartbreaking. You wonder, how can someone do this to our children?” Anderson said.

Little works with the children in individual counseling sessions. She also helped write the non-profit's application for national accreditation, which the organization received last October.

True to her nature, Little also formed a running group for the children.

“You see it on their faces when they come in," Little said, "usually very scared, unsure, not trusting, very angry. It can manifest itself in so many different forms. But, you see all of that soften and melt away with the services that we provide at Robin’s Nest. That is amazing. So, it makes it worth it.”

Little believes there is a “parallel” between running in the Boston Marathon and her work because of last year’s bombing"

“Everyone that is running is a stand to show that we’re not going to be afraid of something scary that could happen,” Little said. “We’re not going to let that deter us. And, we’re going to overcome whatever is thrown at us. Just because something bad happens, if you live your life fearing that it’s going to happen again, it just completely shifts your whole paradigm.”

After the marathon, Little will host a 5K in downtown Lenoir to also benefit Robin’s Nest. The Run for Hope 5K will take place on Saturday, April 26, just two days after Little returns from Massachusetts. She will put together door prizes, and there are pieces of pottery for the top 10 winners.