In the days leading up to the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon this month, countless runners will visit the “In Honor Of” booth set up by the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum to honor victims of the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building.
There, they will likely be greeted by a 15-year-old boy with the first name Walker who will flip through binders containing the photos and bios of the 168 people who were killed in the bombing. Walker is there to help the runner select someone to honor with their run and write the name of that victim on a slip of paper that will be pinned to their back during the race.
Walker will feel good about volunteering his time to the cause, but will feel an especially powerful bond with any runner who elects to have the name “David Walker” scrawled on their back during the race. Although they never met, David is his grandfather and his namesake.
Walker’s mom, Jennifer Walker, describes herself as a “daddy’s girl” who was a high school senior when her dad died in the bombing. Today, she volunteers at various race-related events with her son and her 10-year-old daughter, Graecin.
“He’s been volunteering so long he kind of knows all the victims,” Jennifer said of her son. “He can give a rundown of the different jobs—like this person was in the military, this was a dad or a grandparent—and it’s really impacted him to know it’s not just Granddad who was murdered. There were so many people from every walk of life and it’s helped him understand the magnitude of the loss.”
After the death of her dad, Jennifer went on to earn a degree in health and sport science from the University of Oklahoma and considered going to medical school. Instead, her life took on a new focus when she became pregnant unexpectedly with her son.
“I call my son my angel,” Jennifer said. “The only way to honor my dad is to raise my son the way that I was raised.”
That means pointing her kids to God in everything, she said. In addition to volunteering at the marathon, Jennifer and her kids attend LifeChurch together and volunteer their time with many church efforts, including City Rescue Mission, the holiday Giving Tree and the Pasta for Pennies fundraiser.
Mirroring her dad’s love of education and federal work, Jennifer has returned to the classroom after many years as a financial advisor and insurance agent. She’s a student at the University of Central Oklahoma studying criminal justice and forensic sciences with hopes of working in a crime scene unit for the FBI.
“I enjoy the puzzles at the crime scene; I enjoy helping solve those,” Jennifer said. “I’m drawn to the idea of helping victims be able to move past a stage, and go on to the next stage in healing.”
Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum Executive Director and Race Director of the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon Kari Watkins said Jennifer and her kids are just a few of the countless volunteers working to carry on the legacy of family members by volunteering their time and energy to the run.
“Jennifer, like our many volunteers,” Kari said, “believes that one person can make a difference and she is willing to prove it with her kindness, helpfulness and non-stop energy for the Memorial Marathon.”
The Memorial Marathon is scheduled for April 26. On race day, Jennifer can be found helping wherever she’s needed just as she has in years past.
“There’s still a lot of pain and a lot of sadness there,” Jennifer said, “but it doesn’t run the show. I am in charge of either dwelling on it or moving on.”
Jennifer and her kids are just a few of the hundreds of volunteers who make the Memorial Marathon a success each year. Volunteer opportunities still are open in several areas including the Health & Fitness Expo, Runner Registration, Start and Finish Line Set-Up/Breakdown, Course Marshals and Gear Check. To learn more about volunteer opportunities, visit okcmarathon.com/volunteer/