By: Malcolm Mayhew
The Women’s Center has been holding its Victory Over Violence Walk/Run for 21 years, and in those 21 years, the organization has seen all kinds of teams participate. Some wear matching t-shirts. Some wear tutus.
And others have a lot of members – a lot of members. As in 100 or more. The event’s all-time largest team was Team Curry of the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney Office, which ran with 270 members in 2009. The DFW Airport Department of Public Safety, which has participated since 2013, once had 232 members. Last year, Team Carolyn won the award for Largest Team with 196 members.
But regardless of team size, the message of the event remains the same – to raise awareness for sexual assault and help The Women’s Center in its efforts to serve victims. Proceeds from the race benefit the organization’s rape crisis and victim services programs, from 24-hour crisis intervention to violence prevention and education.
“[The race] has so much of the same structure and energy as it had in the beginning, except that we have pulled in a larger number of people,” said Chrisee Huffman, development director at The Women’s Center.
This year’s race takes place April 8 (April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month) at Trinity Park. The route starts at the duck pond and winds around the park, taking runners along the Trinity River before returning to the pond. Runners can choose to participate in either a 1K or a 5K.
“It’s not a hilly route, so people really like that, if you don’t want to be hiking up a hill,” Huffman said. “It’s a pretty flat course, which makes it a fast course, so for runners, they find that fun.”
There are prizes, too, and not just for the person who crosses the finish line first. Participants can win awards for raising the most money, being the fastest team and, yes, being the largest team.
Last year, that honor went to Team Carolyn, named after a woman who received help from The Women’s Center. Carolyn (last name protected for privacy) was working late on her back porch one evening when she was grabbed from behind, held at knifepoint and forced into her own car. Her attacker then drove her to an ATM, took her money, then drove her back to her house and raped her. After he left, Carolyn called 911, and the man was later found by police.
The Women’s Center then came to help. A Women’s Center victim advocate met with Carolyn at the hospital, offered counseling and helped her through the rape exam.
Carolyn says she’s grateful for the organization’s support. In return, she gathered a crew of 196 people to run with her at the 2016 Victory Over Violence Walk/Run.
“The Women’s Center helped me to cope and be strong,” she says. “I am not a victim. I am a survivor.”
The race is an opportunity for everyone to give back, says Fran McQueen, marketing and communications manager at The Women’s Center.
“It may not directly affect you, but more than likely you know somebody that’s been affected by this issue,” McQueen said. “Just increasing the awareness and increasing the support of this issue is a great reason to participate.”
Early registration for both individuals and teams ends March 22. More information can be found at vovfw.org.
By: Malcolm Mayhew