More than 160 individuals laced up their sneakers Oct. 6 and took strides for the inaugural One Step Closer to Home Walk-A-Thon.

Inspirica supporters, along with families and staff from St. Luke's School in New Canaan, joined together for a 5K walk through downtown Stamford to increase awareness about homelessness and raise funds for Inspirica.

The energy and hard work of the St. Luke's students resulted in more than $20,000 raised to support Inspirica's programs.

Blue and yellow balloons lined the walk route, as did handmade signs with facts on homelessness that students held high. The goal of the walk was to bring attention to the rising number of homeless. Last year, a record 16,000 people in Connecticut were living in shelters, including almost 3,000 children. Eighty-seven percent of the families in Inspirica's family housing program had never experienced homelessness before. The Stamford/Greenwich area recorded a 45 percent increase in homelessness between 2012 and 2013.

"The success of this first-time event is fantastic," Jason Shaplen, CEO of Inspirica, said. "It is inspiring to Inspirica that so many young people gathered together to support our mission. It's a win-win-win event: It builds awareness about homelessness; it raises funds to run our programs and it shows that we are a caring community that wants to give back. Of course, the big winners are the people who -- thanks to the walk-a-thon -- will now be able to move from the streets to health, jobs, homes and dignity."

St. Luke's School and Inspirica launched a strategic partnership in 2012 that focuses on a commitment to public service and increasing community understanding of Inspirica's mission to break the cycle of homelessness.

"The St. Luke's and Inspirica missions complement each other perfectly," Mark Davis, St. Luke's head of school, said. "We have walked together since forming our strategic partnership, so the walk-a-thon gives visibility to our joint efforts and purposes, while bringing resources to those who need them."

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