After a 12-day trip across western Colorado, Lou Dean arrives on donkey in Steamboat Springs to promote her first novel about the preponderance of school violence.
Having left on the second anniversary of the Columbine shootings on her way across Colorado, Dean has traveled through snow, rain, mud and shine to speak with students and the public about her fourth book but her first novel "Reaching for the Reins."
The book deals with a school shooting and one girl's struggle with the pain it brought her.
Because of her passion to promote nonviolence, Dean has set up a scholarship fund for students who initiate a nonviolence program in their schools. The REINS Responsibility, Empathy, Involvement, Nonviolence and Spirituality scholarship will be funded from book sales and donations throughout her journey on donkey-back.
Her 400-mile pilgrimage across Colorado will take her about 30 days, during which she will visit schools and bookstores to bring her message of respecting others and the irrationality of school violence.
Accompanying Dean on her journey is travel companion Jean E. Smith on horseback. The two have been looking for residents to donate of the use of a trailer or barn in towns along the way, as well as a car to lead her pilgrimage where she donates books at stops along the way.
Katie Horal, Dean's public relations representative, said Dean has found a few people to donate barn and farm space for the horse, donkey and travelers to sleep.
"They set out last Friday and the next day we had that huge snowstorm," Horal said. "She and her companion camped and woke up and there were icicles on the donkey and probably on them."
Because Dean was busy riding from Craig to Steamboat on country roads on her donkey, she was not available for comment.
However, Horal said because the book's protagonist is in high school, the book is more geared toward middle school or high school students. Therefore, Dean will be visiting schools at those levels.
"She has a really great connection with animals in general. The lady has been through the ringer. People and animals have been angels in her life," Horal said. "She's a cowgirl, a little rough around the edges, but she said if at least she could touch one student's life, it would make the trip worthwhile."
This Blue Mountain resident has written three memoirs that are set in her home state of Oklahoma. Her "Angels in Disguise" book of memoirs was the December 1996 People magazine cover story and a 1999 nominee for the Colorado Blue Spruce Award.
Her three award-winning books have claimed 20 years of writing, and Dean has about 50 published articles in McCall's, Ladies' Home Journal and Guideposts. Dean also won the article of the year award at the Western Heritage Awards from an excerpt in the book "Halloween Hermit."
Queries about the scholarship or donations can be made by calling (970) 675-8481. (Kelly Silva is a reporter for the Steamboat Springs Pilot/Today.)