ATHENS, Tenn. — An Athens woman uses her breast cancer battle as the blueprint for her five-year-old hiking nonprofit.
Dolphin Riggs leads fighters and survivors on their path of recovery, through nature. She spreads support in every step, all while keeping a smile on her face.
"The name 'Dolphin' kinda says at all. Free-spirited, happy, bouncing wants to spread joy and laughter and happiness and unconditional love," Riggs said.
Riggs and her pup Minnie make sure that outlook runs through every path.
"It's one step at a time, one foot at a time to keep moving," Riggs said. "We always want to keep moving."
That's the attitude she strengthened as she walked through a breast cancer diagnosis at 70 years old.
"I truly believe cancer made me a better person," Riggs said.
She often says cancer was the best lemon she could have ever gotten in life because it gave her the sweetest lemonade. She met friends and grew a community of fighters and survivors who will always have each other's backs.
That's why she started the nonprofit Hiking for Healing five years ago, as a way to share that support with others.
"This is what it's about," Riggs said. "It's about them, and being able to bring whatever we can to them to help them take that next step and to know it's okay."
Riggs is making an impact on many women, including Ann Rita Ditmore.
"I'm a breast cancer survivor," Ditmore said. "I was diagnosed three years ago and had a double mastectomy."
She believes attitude is everything when it comes to healing, and feels most at peace in the outdoors. While fighters and survivors are encouraged to walk alongside Riggs on the hikes, there are others who have never had cancer, yet go on the walks to support.
"That's part of the people that love you," Ditmore said. "They are supporters. They give you that boost."
From the roots, to the boots — Riggs hopes each participant feels the uplifting energy along the way.
"It gave me a new mission," Ditmore said. "I want to tell everybody about it and provide the comfort and the care that people have given me."
When life brings those bumps to the surface in the form of a diagnosis, the women echo that it's not the end of the road. Rather, it's the beginning of the trail.