Walkers, runners and bicyclists — some with children or dogs — met at the Tara Drummond Trailhead in Hiram on Saturday morning to “Take Back the Trail for Tina.”
The event was organized by Waddell’s family to support the Hiram preschool teacher and to urge the community to continue using the trail.
“(Criminals) don’t get to dictate what we do. Fear will not dictate what we do,” said Joey Waddell, Tina Waddell’s brother-in-law. “We have the right to be fit and thrive in this community.”
Joni White of Acworth had her 2-year-old triplets with her and said she was there to support the Waddell family.
“I heard about it and just couldn’t stop thinking about it,” White said. “When I heard they were doing this, I just knew we had to be out here.”
Kristen Waddell said the parking lots have been empty since Tina Waddell’s attack Tuesday and the family does not want the trail to go waste.
“We’re not gonna let him win,” Kristen Waddell said of her sister-in-law’s attacker.
Paulding County detectives believe the man, whom Tina Waddell described as a white person with dark hair, forced her into the wooded area near the bridge that spans Academy Drive and beat her.
She was dragging herself back toward the trail, police said, when Peter Skott of Acworth saw her while he was riding his bike.
Skott, who was at the walk, said he’s seen “a lot of things” with his job selling medical equipment, but “nothing like that.”
After calling 911, he tried to console Tina Waddell. “I just had my hand on her side and I (felt) her breathing and I (tried) to keep animals away from her head,” he said.
Every bone in Tina Waddell’s face had been broken, family members previously told MDJ news partner Fox 5.
Her husband, Jim, said Saturday she has been moved out of Kennestone Hospital’s intensive care unit into a regular room and her swelling has gone down. He said doctors are looking to schedule surgery this week, and while it will likely take about six hours, it may be the only surgery she requires.
Kristen Waddell said her sister-in law is “very anxious to get everything fixed and put back together” and isn’t able to see or smell.
Family members said Tina Waddell walked or ran anywhere from 2 to 5 miles on the trail a few times a week and was working toward being in a 5K race.
At times, she walked with friends or her husband, but she often was on the trail alone “because nobody could keep up with her,” Tina Waddell said.
Her family is now advising trail users to find a partner or carry mace.
As for the man who attacked her, Jim Waddell said a woman should never be treated like his wife was.
“For someone to act like a little coward and attack a woman … when we find him, we’re going to do whatever we want to do,” he said.