SALISBURY — State Sen. Diana DiZoglio, D-Methuen, may have completed her 159-mile march across the state on Sunday, but her work in support of youth programs in Methuen and neighboring communities has only just begun.
DiZoglio started her journey Oct. 16 in Williamstown, setting out to raise $159,000 for the new Methuen Youth & Community Center, or $1,000 for every mile she walked.
“This is just the beginning,” DiZoglio repeated several times, as she spoke to an audience via Facebook Live on Sunday.
She started the day in Haverhill and traveled through Merrimac, Amesbury and Newburyport before ending her 10th and final day at Salisbury Beach at 4 p.m.
DiZoglio, born and raised in Methuen, started her journey as a way to raise money for the new youth and community center in her hometown, but she quickly realized the need for more youth programs across the state.
On Sunday, Amesbury Mayor Kassandra Gove met DiZoglio as she entered the city and continued walking with her through Newburyport and Salisbury.
Also in Amesbury, they were joined by Rep. James Kelcourse, R-Amesbury, who stayed for the remainder of the walk.
Gove said the COVID-19 pandemic has “just exacerbated” the need for more youth programs in communities, including Amesbury.
When schools closed, it limited the number of programs the city offered because a majority came through the school district, she explained.
Newburyport Youth Services Director Andi Egmont also walked with DiZoglio for a leg of her final journey.
DiZoglio said Egmont has been “tremendously helpful in mentoring and guiding” the process of bringing a new youth and community center to Methuen.
Just as Newburyport officials made the former Brown School a location for youth programs, officials in Methuen hope to do the same.
“That is the plan in Methuen, to utilize an old school and to convert it into a youth center,” DiZoglio said, expressing her gratitude for Egmont’s advice.
DiZoglio, who has been walking about 15 to 20 miles a day for her cause, said she chose to walk across the state after realizing that a traditional fundraiser such as an auction or a comedy show wouldn’t be possible under COVID-19 restrictions.
She noticed a lot of local nonprofits were doing virtual walks, though, so she decided to do one of her own as a way to “raise awareness and support local youth who, in particular, are really struggling with being isolated right now.”
DiZoglio said young children and teenagers need mental health and social-emotional help now more than ever, and having a central space for youth programs makes that possible.
The state senator has already secured $200,000 for the creation of the new youth/community center with the help of Methuen Public Schools.
The Legislature has also set aside $1 million in a bond bill that requires Gov. Charlie Baker’s approval to be released. DiZoglio knew it would be helpful to have some matching funds, though, since public-private partnerships are what help move projects forward.
DiZoglio partnered with Methuen-based nonprofit Inspirational Ones and as of Sunday, she had raised over $101,000 of her $159,000 goal.
“What started as a creative way to assist a local youth organization has turned into a movement to raise awareness for the need to fund youth services,” she said. “I’m very, very grateful to everyone for their advocacy.”
To learn more or to make a donation, visit www.inspirationalones.org.
DiZoglio documented many of her meetings with other officials and constituents around the state at www.facebook.com/MarchAcrossMass.