For 1st time, Trolley Square shooting victim moves past 'survivor mode'

Vickie Walker helping others with Cans of Comfort program

Published: Monday, Oct. 14 2013 5:05 p.m. MDT

Vickie Walker talks Monday, Oct. 14, 2013, about her upcoming trip to Philadelphia to talk with the Major Cities Chiefs Police Association about her Cans of Comfort program.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Vickie Walker is a survivor.

But she conceded Monday that for the first time in the more than six years since her husband was killed in the Trolley Square shooting: "It's really nice not to have to be in survivor mode.

"We've been through a lot. But I can honestly say, this is the most peaceful that my life has been. But it's been six freaking years," she told the Deseret News at her Salt Lake City home.

What gives Walker that peace is knowing that her children are finally in a good place.

"You know that saying, 'You're only as happy as your saddest child?'" she asked. "Knowing that everybody is kind of finding their path, it brings me great peace."

But getting to that place was anything but easy.

The time of turmoil began with the tragedy at Trolley Square where Walker's husband was shot and killed and her son severely injured. Then Walker lost her house when her neighbor bilked her out of $250,000 in life insurance funds from the shooting. And most recently, about a year ago, Walker was on her way to deliver the keynote address after being selected as the Wasatch Woman of the Year when she was hit by an impaired driver. Both her knees had to be replaced because of her injuries.

Despite being faced with such great adversity, today Walker is up and walking, both physically and figuratively. She is extremely busy with her nonprofit organization Circle The Wagons. The centerpiece of the campaign is the Cans of Comfort.

Later this week, Walker will travel to Philadelphia to pitch her Cans of Comfort program before the Major Cities Chiefs Police Association.

Walker sat down with the Deseret News Monday to talk about her upcoming trip, how the Cans of Comfort program has grown, and what's she has been doing for the past two years — a time she admits she purposely tried to keep out of the public eye.

Cans of Comfort

On Feb. 12, 2007, a lone, heavily armed gunman went on a random shooting spree in and around Trolley Square. Jeffrey Walker was one of five people killed. His son AJ Walker, then 16, was also shot and suffered a severe head injury.

In an instant, Vickie Walker's world had been turned upside down. It wasn't just the mourning that weighed heavily on her mind, but thoughts of how she would pay for everything from funeral costs to her son's long-term treatment.

And even though at some point she believes someone provided her with papers filled with important information and phone numbers that could help her, she found herself struggling to discover on her own what resources were available.

"How do you know what to ask for if you don't know what you need? It wasn't on my day planner to be a victim, and I certainly didn't know how to plan for that," she said. "I was in a haze. Something was handed to me at some point. I don't remember where any of it was or what it was."

After her husband's funeral, Vickie decided to take action rather than curl up in a ball. She started the Circle the Wagons group (www.circle-the-wagons.org/) in an effort to help others who find themselves in the position of having to deal with the aftermath of a violent crime but with no idea where to turn to for help.

The centerpiece of the program is Cans of Comfort. An actual metal can — similar to an oversized soup can — is handed out to victims. On the can are phone numbers and other important resources and tidbits of information that victims need to get started. Inside the can is a bag of lemon drops and a note from Walker talking about her own situation. The can also includes a small key with the word "hope" on it.

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