Advocates for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault are stepping up in a different way this year to promote awareness and raise funds for much-needed services in the community.
With October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Help In Crisis Executive Director Laura Kuester said they are focused on education more to accommodate for COVID.
“We’ve been to the schools and doing presentations about healthy relationships,” said Kuester. “We’re doing a lot of education, and I’m speaking to several groups this month about Domestic Violence Awareness Month and the fundraisers.”
The Community Crisis Response Team and Northeastern State University have held the Cherokee County Glow Walk, an event that features glow paint, glow sticks, and people who wear purple. The last two events were a success, but Kuester said they canceled it last year due to COVID.
“We did it two years in a row with NSU. We walked from the Cherokee County Courthouse down to NSU, and we had a little presentation at the courthouse and then one on campus. [President] Dr. [Steve] Turner and a survivor spoke too,” said Kuester.
This year’s Glow Walk is slated for Thursday, Oct. 21, at the Adair County Courthouse Square.
HIC will typically host the Black and White Masquerade Ball at the Tahlequah Armory Municipal Center in October, but Kuester said they have decided to cancel the fundraiser this year.
The event offers an opportunity for HIC to hand out community awards to volunteers and supporters. And, with the theme, it raises awareness.
While awareness months bring out annual events for HIC, the pandemic hit the organization hard over the past 18 months, and Kuester said their largest federal grant, Victims of Crime, was cut by 30 percent.
“Our fundraising abilities have been down because of COVID and we’ve only been able to have one of our four major fundraisers,” said Kuester.
Kuester was trying to wrap her brain around ideas that could bring funds back to HIC, and she thought about a hobby she enjoys: hiking.
“I just decided that I’m going to hike/backpack the Ozark National Forest early in November in an effort to raise funds for HIC,” she said.
Kuester and others will walk 200 miles over the course of 13-14 days and will be documenting their journey.
“Every single dollar raised go toward serving victims of domestic violence,” she said.
All services provided by HIC are free and confidential to victims. Their shelter serves victims in four counties: Adair, Sequoyah, Cherokee, and Wagoner. HIC services include counseling, domestic violence education groups, and a variety of classes for parents.