Walk to stop domestic, sexual violence

A Coon Rapids student group annually raises awareness of the issue of domestic and sexual violence while raising money for an Anoka County-based emergency shelter for victims of violence.

Participants in the Stop Domestic and Sexual Violence Walkathon Sunday walked the first lap of the Coon Rapids High School track together to show unity against violence.

Participants in the Stop Domestic and Sexual Violence Walkathon Sunday walked the first lap of the Coon Rapids High School track together to show unity against violence.

The sixth annual Coon Rapids High School FCCLA (Family, Careers and Community Leaders of America) Stop Domestic and Sexual Violence Walkathon Sunday at the high school track exceeded its goal.

With some 178 people of all ages taking part in the walkathon, more than the $2,000 goal has been taken in to date for Alexandra House.

“We are still counting,” said Karen Sherga, high school family and consumer sciences teacher and FCCLA adviser, Monday morning.

There are still donations coming in, late checks and T-shirts remaining to be sold, Sherga said.

The cause was helped by The Red Pear Salon in Coon Rapids where a cutathon put on by co-owners Miki Otterness and Chris Wisen collected over $600 toward the students’ effort.

FCCLA chapter students run with the project every year, said Sherga, who facilitates their efforts.

Three FCCLA students headed the walkathon project this year – Maegan Stepp, Kjersten Fisher and Ashley Staton.

For the first time this year, the walkathon took place on a Sunday, rather than a Saturday.

The main reason was that the ACT test was scheduled to Saturday, Stepp said.

In addition, Stepp was going to be gone on Saturday because of a family commitment.

Money was raised through a $15 registration fee plus raffle tickets, the girls said.

“We are trying to raise $2,000,” Fisher said.

According to Sherga, the walkathon was tough with the severe storms forecast for Sunday.

“We were watching the weather very closely,” Sherga said.

Moving the walkathon into the high school fieldhouse was problematic because of a basketball tournament, she said.

“We set the date for the walkathon a year ago and the basketball tournament was scheduled later,” Sherga said.

But the walkathon went ahead as planned on the high school track and was over by the time the storms arrived in the Twin Cities Sunday evening.

Representatives from Alexandra House, a non-profit, community-based organization that provides 24-hour emergency shelter, support services and community advocacy to victims of domestic and sexual violence, had a display table set up at the track and also spoke in the pre-walkathon program.

According to Jane St. Marie, an Alexandra House staff member, and Sue Skeie, a volunteer, the students’ project is very important not only in raising money for Alexandra House’s program, but also in raising awareness of the societal problem of domestic and sexual violences.

“The students are showing the victims of this violence that they are not alone that the students care about them,” St. Marie said.

“It is great that people in the community show they care.”

This walkathon demonstrates that domestic and sexual violence is not OK and the students will not let it be OK, St. Marie said.

According to Skeie, the walkathon is a “really wonderful event” and Alexandra House “appreciates what you are doing.”

Guest speaker Dina Lantzer, a resident of Fridley, brought home the impact of domestic violence in a pre-walkathon presentation and then was one of the walkers.

She spoke about her childhood in Nebraska where her father continually verbally and physically abused her and her siblings, as well as her mother, on a regular basis, especially when he had been drinking.

On one occasion, Lantzer said that her father held a gun to her head “and I prayed that he would pull the trigger.”

“My mother lived with him for 40 years,” Lantzer said.

And when her father died from cancer some 10 years ago, Lantzer was glad, she said.

But that is not true anymore, according to Lantzer.

Her faith in Jesus Christ has helped her deal with her childhood memories and she has forgiven her father for his actions, Lantzer said.

“I realized that Jesus loves me, cares about me and would help me,” she said.

Lantzer’s mother has been able to forgive him, too, she said.

“I know now that my siblings and I will never live in an abusive home again,” Lantzer said.

Participants in the walkathon not only paid to register and purchase raffle tickets, they also dropped old cell phones, which filled a box, and brought canned goods with them that filled several boxes for the foodshelf.

Prize donations were made by Red Pear Salon, Famous Dave’s, D & B, Ritz Camera, Proex, Arby’s, Denny’s, Davanni’s, Keys Cafe, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pot Belly Sandwiches, Coldstone Creamery, Green Mill, Cub Foods and Party City.

Balloons Galore and More provided the balloons for the entrance to the stadium and start of the walkathon.

Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) is a nonprofit national career and technical student organization for young men and women in family and consumer sciences education in public and private school through grade 12.

Since 1945, FCCLA members have been making a difference in their families, careers and communities by addressing important personal, work and societal issues through family and consumer sciences education, according to the national FCCLA website.

Today, there are over 205,000 members in nearly 6,500 chapters in 50 states, including the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

Chapter projects focus on a variety of youth concerns, including teen pregnancy, parenting, family relationships, substance abuse, peer pressure, environment, nutrition and fitness, teen violence and career exploration.

The 2013 walkathon has been scheduled for Sunday, April 14.

Peter Bodley is at [email protected]

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