Having grown up in Memphis, Regina Hill, 58, has seen city linchpins come and go, neighborhoods change for better…and worse. And similar to Memphis and its neighborhoods, she’s even seen her life do a complete 180. After suffering a work injury in 2002, Regina lost her job, all of her worldly possessions, and was told she would never walk again. 

But you’d have to know Regina to understand—there’s no way she would let that happen.

Her journey to becoming one of the faithful walkers at the new Raleigh Civic Center (previously home to the former Raleigh Springs Mall) was wrought with uncertainty and disappointment. But one thing is certain—Regina Hill is a fighter.

Regina’s Path To Recovery

Regina had moved to Dallas after living in the North Memphis neighborhood of Douglass for most of her life. She started working as an AS-400 computer operator for a well-known airline and had perfect attendance for four years. One day in 2002, she had to transport 70+ pounds of back-up tapes in an oversized backpack with her arms full. This caused the beginning of a lifelong problem, now known as Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, in her neck and upper/lower back, which led to perpetual spinal injuries and nerve damage. 

Despite her loyalty, the company falsified documents, denied her work(wo)man’s compensation claim, and essentially left her ineligible for healthcare. She could no longer work due to pain and nerve damage and fought from 2002 to 2005 to get disability. She ran into roadblock after roadblock to get healthcare…but she was determined to keep moving. 

“I knew I needed to stay active, even though I couldn’t resume my previous workout regimen,” Regina explains. “I knew that walking would help keep my muscles toned and help during recovery once I started having my surgeries.”

For 15 years, she was in and out of emergency, operating, and recovery rooms every few weeks, going under the knife more than 100 times. She credits her commitment to walking as the one thing that saved her life—as well as a little help from God.

The Will To Keep Walking

Regina says, “Walking is the only thing that keeps me going. It helps me keep my head up and feel like I’m going to be alright. Without fitness, you’re not alive!” Her mom, 74, is a retired X-ray technician and goes on regular walks with her daughter. Her dad is 76 and still cuts yards!

“You don’t have to be physically fit already to come out and get your walk on,” Regina adds. “You don’t have to do the full trail. Start with a shorter distance around the skate park. Once you walk and feel that blood flowing, it gives you energy, makes you feel alive. And a by-product is seeing the inches fall off. Even in two weeks, you see a big difference.”

Regina and her mother, Virgie, began walking together in Douglass Park in 2018. But due to changes in the neighborhood and unwelcome gang- and drug-related activities, she no longer feels comfortable there. However, they find the trails around the lakes, which double as catchment basins designed to help with neighborhood flooding, at the new Raleigh Civic Center to be more pleasant and safe. 

“We feel so safe and comfortable knowing that the police precinct and the new Raleigh Library are right there on the grounds. It helps us walk with confidence,” Regina says. “And we love looking at the kids in the skatepark riding bikes and doing tricks. It lets you know there is still life in Memphis, in North Memphis, in Raleigh!”

The pair began walking at the new Raleigh Civic Center, designed by OT Marshall Architects, as soon as the trails were completed early in 2020, even before the City of Memphis officially opened the buildings later that year. When news of the pandemic hit, Regina and Virgie were already safely walking outside and practicing social distancing. 

“We didn’t let the pandemic stop us. We put on our masks and kept stepping,” she says. 

“We have a whole gym upstairs, but it’s no fun. I like to feel like I’m going somewhere. I don’t like being isolated. We run into friends, church members. It’s just nice being outside!”

In learning of Regina’s story, Tom Marshall, CEO of OT Marshall Architects and former Raleigh resident said, “I’m so thrilled to hear that during a pandemic, the walking trails are meeting the community’s needs, just as they were designed to do, giving them an outlet to connect with their loved ones and the community. I couldn’t be prouder to know that this project is helping people regain their lives and preserving their physical and mental health!”

Inspiring Others To Move

Regina walks for an hour and a half at least three days a week (if the weather is above 40 degrees). Sometimes she goes five or even seven days.

“In spite of all I’ve gone through, I’m still trucking along,” she says. “I want to show people if I can do it, anyone can. You don’t have to have gone through health challenges like me to take care of yourself. Every day you wake up, that’s another chance to get it right.”

Regina has more surgeries scheduled back in Dallas, and will return to Memphis to recover. You can bet you’ll see her back on the trails at Raleigh Civic Center. Regina Hill isn’t slowing down any time soon.

By Candace A. Gray

Photo by Tindall Stephens