Foundation to honor slain hiker
Group to support hiking safety in memory of Duluth woman

LAWRENCEVILLE - Julia Karrenbauer never got a chance to hike in the mountains with her roommate and best friend Meredith Emerson, the Buford hiker killed earlier this year in north Georgia.

But Karrenbauer and 19 other friends and family will honor Emerson with a foundation supporting hiking safety and other causes.

The Right to Hike Inc. foundation will host its first fundraiser June 25, five days after what would have been Emerson's 25th birthday.

Supporters can go to any of the 40 metro Atlanta Applebee's to donate 15 percent of their bill to the nonprofit. The money, Karrenbauer said, will go toward a hiking safety initiative to provide GPS devices to hikers to allow emergency personnel to locate them in distress and to provide micro-chipping for dogs.

"Meredith's dog Ella's microchip played a key role in helping us find her, and it's so important to make sure all pets have one in the event they're ever lost," Karrenbauer said. "We want to ensure other hikers can feel safe while doing what they love by giving them access to Satellite Personal Outdoor Trackers, known as SPOTs, so they can send messages for help and be located if lost."

The nonprofit also plans to set up a scholarship for students to study abroad in France, a trip Emerson took in college.

"It's hard to pick," Karrenbauer said of where to donate proceeds. "We wanted to narrow it down to things she loved and the things she'd want us to continue. ... It's not necessarily about the funds we raise but creating awareness about safety."

The group hopes to host other fundraisers in the future, including a concert, a 5K and a hike, "of course," Karrenbauer said.

"I have some new hiking boots and I'm excited to put them on," she said.

To participate in the fundraiser June 25, go to www.righttohikeinc.com and print an invitation to present at the restaurant.

Karrenbauer said the foundation's board hopes to be at as many locations as possible to personally thank the people who supported them during the search for Emerson.

"We really did see through this tragedy came unbelievable strength and support," she said. "This is just a starting off point. ... We're looking forward to (the charity) really growing."