This past weekend, Saturday, October 20, I participated in my first walk to fight domestic violence: Silent No More.
I have been participating in charity walks, runs, and bike-a-thons since I was in 4th grade. Growing up in Westernport, MD, I remember the principal and teachers at Westernport Elementary School holding the annual spring assembly encouraging each student to ride in the St. Jude’s bike-a-thon to help raise money for the sick kids who couldn’t ride. Those were the days when I had to go door-to-door to get people to sponsor me as little as a dime for every mile I rode. I was 8 the first year I rode, and I wanted to ride at least 50 miles so I could get a trophy. (And I did! My first trophy!) By the third year I participated, I wanted to ride the 50 miles and get the most sponsors to raise the most money to help those kids. I raised a lot but not the most. I still got a trophy, but the trophy meant less to me than the first and second trophies I had won. As an 11-year-old, I learned that I could make a difference just by doing a little something one day out of the year and that I could have fun doing it.
Since then, I have done many, many charity walks. The walks have all been to fight some type of disease like breast cancer or juvenile diabetes or prostate cancer or heart disease or AIDS. These events bring out hundreds of participants and raise thousands of dollars every year. I am always thrilled to be a part of these events and know that even a few dollars add up and can truly make a difference in someone’s life and the lives of many. If I didn’t believe this, I wouldn’t dedicate my time and money.
I learned about The Silent No More 10K run/2M walk through Facebook and desperately wanted to be a part of it. The event was held in Morgantown, WV, the home of West Virginia University and the Mountaineers, which is almost 4 hours from my home near D.C. My mom and son went with me. I fully expected my son to sit next to my mom at the table I setup to display my book and business cards. But about 10 minutes before the horn sounded, he told me he’d like to walk with me.
He ran ahead of me for the first mile, while I lagged behind and walked and talked with a couple of walkers I just met. On the return trip, things were different. He ran out of steam, and I had to say goodbye to my new friends and walk slower back to the finish with my son who I also carried on my back several hundred feet. We finished together, and I won a book (“Sister of Silence” by Daleen Berry, a memoir of her abuse and escape) for being the first woman walker over 40 to finish. (Over 40. Still sinking in.)
Overall, the day was bitter-sweet. The turnout of participants seemed low to me (less than 50), and the media showed up late AFTER the race began. Also, there were some runners who participated just for the opportunity to say they ran and competed, not because they were there to support the cause. I know this because the turn-around point for the run portion of the event was not attended by an event coordinator, and many of the top runners did not see the cones and ended up running more than a 10K. About half a mile more! The finishing times for the top runners and finishers were well above their personal best. (Apparently, this isn’t good for a runner’s resume.) The winning runner was so disappointed by the failure of the event planners that he left before awards were distributed! This was very sad to me.
But the day had its perks, too. I met my Facebook friend and fellow blogger Ray for the first time. I also met author Daleen Berry and the race coordinator Kevin. I sold the first soft copy of my book (most sales have been through Kindle and Nook), and I met many people dedicated to the cause to fight domestic violence/intimate partner abuse. I learned about Samantha’s Sanctuary located in Morgantown and that the money collected on race day will go to buying Kindles preloaded with resources and books to help empower victims of abuse. (Maybe they’ll load my little book on the Kindles they distribute. Who knows!?)
My wish is that the event will become an annual event and that next year will bring more support. No, we’re not fighting breast cancer or heart disease. We’re fighting something that is just as debilitating and life-threatening. Is support so low for this cause because domestic violence is a disease with a human face unlike cancer which is a disease caused by something inhuman? Or is it because too many people still blame the victims of domestic violence and have given up on trying to help? Regardless, it’s a cause that desperately needs more support and funding. Hopefully, my son will continue participating with me, and maybe one day he’ll even be one of the top finishers on race day. One thing is certain, he is learning that events like this aren’t about winning or raising the most money. Events like this are about supporting those who don’t have the resources to save and support themselves, because just knowing someone or many someones care is enough to save a person. Peace!