Walk for Hope brings awareness to domestic, sexual violence here at home

Staff Writer
Since 2013, I have primarily covered the Anoka-Hennepin and Spring Lake Park school districts as well as the city of Spring Lake Park for ABC Newspapers.

Molly Nhean stayed at the Alexandra House as a child, and she turned to them for support again years later, struggling with depression following sexual assault by a neighbor and her stepfather.

“They helped me stitch my heart back together,” Nhean said. “I am a survivor.”

Nhean, a junior at Centennial High School who serves on the Alexandra House’s Youth Advisory Council, was the guest speaker at the 13th annual Walk for Hope, which drew hundreds to Bunker Hills Regional Park in Andover Sept. 30.

Attendance was down somewhat from last year, but more than $40,000 was raised before the event even started. A total of 360 pre-registered for the event with more showing up to participate the day of the walk, according to Tina Bronson, communications marketing director for the Alexandra House.

A 5K run and 2-mile walk started in waves after a program featuring remarks by Alexandra House Executive Director Connie Moore, County Commissioner Rhonda Sivaraja and Nhean.

County Commissioners Julie Braastad, Mike Gamache, Scott Schulte and Robyn West read the names of 26 Anoka County women and children whose lives were cut short by domestic violence.

They are memorialized in the Silent Witness exhibit. Life-size red figures include plaques with each of their stories.

This year a new figure and plaque were made for Barbara Larson after her family approached the Alexandra House.

Larson was murdered by her husband, Robert Charles Provost Jr., in 1989 at the age of 22. Provost told Blaine police that he had burned his wife, and officers found her body in the Carlos Avery Wildlife Refuge. Provost was convicted of second-degree murder in 1990 and was sentenced to life in prison.

The Walk for Hope is held annually not only to remember the victims of domestic and sexual violence, but also to bring awareness that it will take the entire community’s efforts to prevent more lives from being lost.

In Alexandra House’s 40 years, “so much has been accomplished,” Sivarajah said. But “the work the Alexandra House does is not done,” she continued, sharing state statistics.

In 2016, 18 women and three attempting to intervene on their behalf, were murdered in Minnesota. This year 14 have died, most recently Vanessa Danielson, of Minneapolis, whose boyfriend is accused of setting her on fire Sept. 28, Sivarajah shared.

Nhean, whose life has been forever changed by sexual violence, won’t let it define her, and she encourages other victims to take off any figurative masks they may be wearing.

“People love you for who you are,” she told the crowd last week. “This is the Walk for Hope, and there is hope in this world.”

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Jennifer Fearing hands a balloon animal to Stella Geilow, 4, in the Kidz Zone at Alexandra House’s Walk for Hope fundraiser. Photos by Olivia Alveshere Donna Turner, left, and Sarah Tate read stories displayed in the Silent Witness exhibit. The Alexandra House maintains the exhibit, which memorializes Anoka County women and children whose lives where cut short because of domestic violence. Centennial High School junior Molly Nhean shared her story as a survivor of sexual assault and spoke about her involvement with Alexandra House’s Youth Advisory Council. Runners participate in the Walk for Hope 5K Sept. 30. Performers from the Women’s Drum Center play as runners and walkers disperse through Bunker Hills Regional Park. Anoka County commissioners read the names of Anoka County women and children who were subjected to domestic violence and killed. Commissioners Robyn West, Scott Schulte, Julie Braastad, Rhonda Sivarajah and Mike Gamache were present at the Walk for Hope Sept. 30.
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Anoka County commissioners read the names of Anoka County women and children who were subjected to domestic violence and killed. Commissioners Robyn West, Scott Schulte, Julie Braastad, Rhonda Sivarajah and Mike Gamache were present at the Walk for Hope Sept. 30.