‘With big love comes big grief’ — but even bigger gains: Immediate success of inaugural 5K honoring Rifle’s Christy Walters means more kits

City of Rifle employee Taylor Walters helps load the back of a truck full of food that will be used to make anywhere from 85-100 meal kits for families in need.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Taylor Walters kept it cool the day of the race. She said what she needed to say about her mother, Christy, and that was that. It was the next day that grief inevitably poked its head in. 

“What I’ve learned is, with big love comes big grief, and I’m super lucky to have this woman to look up to that has done so much,” Taylor said. “I try my best to replicate (Christy) every single day.”

Christy Walters was a longtime educator for the Garfield Re-2 School District who lost a 20-year battle to breast cancer in 2021. In her honor, the city in September hosted a 5K fundraiser. The inaugural event, called Strides for Giving, immediately surprised organizers when it garnered a whopping 60 participants and nearly $8,000 in revenue.

All that money is now being used to support Rifle’s annual holiday meal-kit giveaway. Each year, Western Garfield county residents are encouraged to anonymously nominate fellow local families in need to receive a donated meal — holiday hams included.

This is already Rifle’s Third Annual Holiday Feast, which originally began with just two local sponsorships: Alpine Bank and Shelter Insurance. That has now grown to more than 10 sponsorships, and the amount of food Rifle can provide this year has grown with it.

The 5K fundraiser is another major reason why the number of available holiday meals offered through this year’s campaign has jumped to 120 from 80 in 2021.

“All the holiday seasons were just really important to (Christy), and it’s been my healing process,” Taylor said. “It’s really nice to be able to involve other people and help people — and remember and honor my mom.”

City of Rifle employees Kendrick Robinson and Austin Rickstrew reload carts full of food at the check out counter before heading out to put together anywhere between 85-100 meal kits.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Taylor, 28, works for Rifle’s Parks and Recreation Department and is a homegrown resident. Her mother also grew up on a Rifle ranch and graduated from Rifle High School in 1984 before going on to serve the local school district for more than 30 years.

Taylor herself was also state golf qualifier for Rifle High School, while her dad, Roger, coached Bears basketball and later at Colorado Mesa University.

Taylor said her mother, remembered for her generosity, was the type of teacher to provide students with winter coats, gloves and boots if they didn’t have any. One time, the Glenwood Springs Officials Association donated $5,000 to Christy before she died. She donated $1,000 of that to another family dealing with a diagnosis.

“She gave away that money that was given to her because she says there are people that need way more than what we need,” Taylor said. “When people would bring up giving to us, she would get very uncomfortable.”

“‘We’re doing fine,” Christy would respond. “We’re good, we have have food, we have a roof and we have clothes.’”

Regional Alpine Bank Vice President Larry Stewart remembers last year’s meal giveaway vividly. Stewart joined Rifle Parks and Recreation workers in the freezing December cold, handing out meals to people who drove up to the Metro Pool parking lot.

Stewart said it was quite an experience. Loading kits into people’s cars in just 30-second interactions made him see how big of a need there is for something that’s otherwise considered small. 

“You can tell that they’re living worse than paycheck to paycheck,” he said. “I think, for me, it was an experience to see that and understand that, hey, these families are being nominated for the right reasons, and we’re giving for the right reasons.”

City of Rifle Employee Taylor Walters unloads carts full of food at the check out counter while helping to pick out food to fill meal kits.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Colorado and, specifically, the valleys in which we live are still dealing with the usual issues. Cost of living, lack of affordable housing, inflation, trying to put COVID-19 in our rearviews — this list goes on and on. Stewart anticipates these issues to drive more families to the pick-up line.

“If not this year, definitely next year,” Stewart said. “It’s not going to go down. Based on inflation, rising rates and all that stuff, that’s all going to affect people.”

Rifle Parks and Recreation Director Austin Rickstrew said the city maintains a close relationship with Garfield Re-2, and it too knows certain financial situations continue to affect student’s families. 

Combined with the Roaring Fork School District, this year alone the districts at one point during fall incurred about $65,000 in student meal debt.

“We’ve been talking to some of the people in middle school. There’s parents telling their kids not to buy school lunch and charge it when they don’t have money on their account because they can’t pay for it,” Rickstrew said. “We’re trying to help those families as well.”

Taylor said it’s also a good pick-me-up for families. The nice holiday meal, complete with all the makings for potato dishes and Brussels sprouts in addition to holiday ham, make it so the families can focus on buying other items: presents, household necessities.

But, the hardest thing right now is word of mouth, Parks and Recreation Program Manager Kendrick Robinson said. Without people nominating other people, the city can’t give away the full 120 meals. As of last week, the city had received 80 nominations.

“That’s kind of the biggest thing we struggle with,” he said. “Because you just don’t want to disrespect anyone by saying, ‘Hey, I want to nominate you.’

“It’d be helpful if we could just talk to the community about it.” 

Taylor Walters, left, and her mother, Christy, smile during Glenwood Springs’ Rally in the Valley in September 2018.
Taylor Walters/Courtesy photo

Through her position with the city and the inherent legacy of her late mother, the city lauds Taylor for her immense caring, and her sponsorship canvassing skills are a huge reason why the meal kit service is what it is now.

The city’s aspiration to bolster events like this is a big reason why Shelter Insurance representative Tyler Davis is typically on board when they say they’re going to do something.

“That’s what I like about parks and rec — they always do these programs that have a potential to get bigger,” he said. “That’s why I sponsor them because it’s a good organization to get behind.

“They always have that forward-minded mindset that it’ll grow and help more people.”

When Christy was diagnosed with breast cancer, she decided to walk, jog and run more, Taylor said. Physical activity like this is good for personal health of course. But, in typical Christy fashion, she wasn’t just doing it for herself.

“She was a fighter every single day, and I didn’t realize this until the last few years, but she did everything for her family,” Taylor said. “She fought for us, not necessarily herself.

“That speaks a lot about her and what family means to her, and she’s a warrior.”

  • To nominate yourself or anyone in need in the community, the deadline has been extended to Dec. 16. Meals will be distributed Dec. 21. Nominations can be made by scanning the QR code on meal kit giveaway fliers around town or by visiting the Parks and Recreation website at
  • Nominations are completely anonymous, and residents from Parachute to New Castle are eligible to nominate. Each meal feeds between 5-7 people

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