N.C. Gold Star mom finds closure in cross-country trek

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Volunteers will lay out the last of 2.2 million wreaths Saturday at Arlington National Cemetery, honoring our nation’s fallen heroes.

Cathy Powers lost her son in 2013, but she's found new-found meaning running to support Wreaths Across America. (Source: Gray DC)

Among the volunteers, will be Cathy Powers, a Gold Star mom from North Carolina who's made the trip of a lifetime to lay one on her son's grave. But before she stepped foot in the nation's capital, she touched thousands of families like hers along the way.

"it’s been an incredible, healing journey," Powers said Friday of her year-long marathon covering more than 1,000 miles with stretches in all 50 states. Friday she ran the final mile in her planned tribute to her son, joined by supporters as she ran from the Lincoln Memorial to Arlington National Cemetery.

"It just feels great to be ending my run in such a special place where my son’s buried," she said.

When Powers lost her son Bryce in 2013, she ate her way through grief and despair. She called food her drug, numbing her to the pain of her loss as she gained weight. At her heaviest, she weighed 300 lbs.

But, Powers would take her first steps back to physical and mental health after finding a wreath at her son's headstone one Christmas. "It just helped me to know he would never be forgotten, and that was my greatest worry," she said, "someone’s remembering them… that just hits a mom in the heart."

This year, she set out to ran in honor of her son, all veterans, and to raise funds for Wreaths for America, the volunteer group responsible for the wreaths she found on her son's grave every December. Her goal: raise enough cash to cover 7,777 wreaths, one for each day of her son’s life.

Just a month ago on Veterans Day, she didn't think she would meet her goal, only having raised half of what she hoped. But, with a late push, the finally tally came to more than 11,000.

Powers said the change she's undergone since finding that first wreath, and completing her journey, has changed her life. She said she's excited for each day. Though her son's no longer here, "I can still represent even a piece of him, and help others going forward."

"Cathy Powers is a unique individual to say the least," said Morrill Worcester.

Worcester and his wife Karen founded Wreaths Across America 28 years ago. He said he’s touched by what the annual gesture means to families like Powers’, and that his tradition now belongs to the nation.

Worcester said the size of the event, doubles every few years. This year's 2.2 million wreaths have or will be laid at more than 2,200 memorials and cemeteries.

Worcester said he gets too much credit for the event's success. "It just seems more and more people know about it, and when they know about it, they want to be part of it," he said.

Worcester wants to see wreaths eventually reach every American veterans’ grave regardless of where they’re buried. By his calculation, they'll get there in 10-12 years.

Powers is still running through ideas of what to do next.

"I don’t know," she said about future plans, "but I know I’m going to keep waking up, and keep trying to make a difference."

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