Lorig Charkoudian is on a mission. Photo by Anna Lee

Baltimore – The Friday after Thanksgiving, when many were sleeping off turkey hangovers, heading out to shop or trying to avoid the day’s bitter, windy chill – Lorig Charkoudian was getting ready to run.

Charkoudian is the executive director for a group called Community Mediation Maryland. They specialize in mediation and conflict resolution services. Their services are available for any Marylander who needs them. However, on Thursday, the focus was re-entry mediation – a process aimed at helping Maryland prisoners start life over successfully after they have served their time.

This run – a 67 mile trip from Mondawmin Mall in Baltimore to the Maryland Institute of Corrections in Hagerstown – is to help fund their re-entry mediation services.

“I’m grateful for lots of reasons, but I’ve learned more personally about what it looks like to love and to love through really hard times by sitting in mediation,” Charkoudian said, shortly before she began. She said she’s seen people overcome remarkable pain and setbacks to start their lives over again.

“You are carrying them on your back today!” said Errika Bridgeford, the group’s director of training. “And in your feet!”

Charkoudian was cheered on by a group of about a dozen people – some of whom have taken advantage of the group’s services – who had come to run with her or to see her off.

According to the group, people who have served time in prison face a difficult transition once they are allowed to go home. Time with family and an opportunity to reevaluate the past can help keep former prisoners out of trouble and on the right path. But, sometimes those loved ones may not have the funds to make the trip. The run was to help raise money for their travel expenses.

The group says that re-entry mediation has been shown to decrease recidivism rates by 10 percent.

“People oftentimes say they come in there unsure what’s going to happen or what they are going to say to their loved ones and family members, said Brandon Booth, who works with the group. “But by the end of the mediation they’ve cried, they’ve laughed they gone through all this range of emotion…They are able to have that really difficult conversation that you can’t have in a letter, you can’t have over the phone. We just give them that space to have that really tough, difficult conversation.”

The Monday after the run, Charkoudian said they had raised about $3,500 so far, and that fundraising efforts will continue for the next week. The group has mostly been relying on word-of-mouth to collect funds. Many of the group’s volunteer counselors, she said, have been working to raise money themselves. “Many of them feel personally connected.”

Charkoudian said the trip took about 14 hours to complete, with 10 hours and 47 miles coming on the first day of the run alone. She stopped once an hour for food and water.

“As soon as I would stop, I’d start shivering,” she said. “It was good motivation to keep moving.”