Annual event raises sexual assault awareness

by Staff Writer Melissa Parker

Put on those walking shoes and head to Wilson Park April 25 to support Rape Response of the Shoals’ seventh annual Walk for Justice.

The event, which was held in June until this year, was moved to April because it is Sexual Assault Awareness month, said Rape Response Programs Director Tina Scott.

Preparations are moving along slower this year because of the change and has left the organization feeling a bit nervous about the event, Scott said.

Walk for Justice is one of Rape Response’s biggest events that not only brings awareness to a problem but also serves as a fundraiser for the nonprofit organization, she said.

“It has gotten people to notice us,” she said. “They may not be aware that Rape Response even exists in the community. The walk does turn into a lot of money that we can use to serve victims in this community. We served 172 victims last year.”

Sophomore Jonathon Barnett said he will be attending the event and is looking forward to helping any way he can.

“I’ve known somebody that has gone through a situation like that, and I know my money will be put to good use,” he said.

There have been more than 100 participants the past few years, she said, and she hopes more will attend this year.

Those wishing to participate can register on the Shoals Crisis Center website or register the day of the event, she said.

Registration the day of the event begins at 8 a.m. and the walk begins at 9 a.m., she said. After the walk, winners are recognized and door prizes are given out.

The cost is $15 for adults, $10 for students and $5 for anyone under 6. All of the funds raised by this event ensure critical services, such as the 24-hour crisis line, medical and legal assistance and counseling to survivors are always available, according to the Shoals Crisis Center website.

Participants can pay with a check made to Shoals Crisis Center or Rape Response, or with cash on the day of the event.

Although the event started as a walking event, there have been some who have chosen to run in recent years, Scott said. The streets surrounding Wilson Park are blocked off so participants have plenty of room to walk their dogs, push a stroller or run.

“It’s just turned into a great family event for people,” Scott said.

Senior Jennifer Allen said she and her daughter will be taking part in the event.

“We will be out there supporting Rape Response and all the wonderful things they do for our community,” she said.

Trophies are given for those individuals who walk or run the most laps in their age groups. Also, the team with the most people who collectively walk or run the most laps wins a trophy.

Sponsors help offset the cost of the event, and door prizes are donated by local businesses, Scott said.

Though the nonprofit organization does qualify for federal and state grants, that amount is not enough, Scott said.

The largest grant they receive requires a 20 percent local match from an organization or a proven fundraiser, she said, so this event has to do well.

“For every dollar we raise for Walk for Justice we are able to tap into an additional $4,” she said.

The event raised nearly $6,000 last year, but with the grant that became nearly $30,000. This year’s goal is $8,000, she said.

Putting signs in the area before the event and being at the park the day of the walk has become a great way to let people know about the service, Scott said, and that there are survivors of sexual assault in the community who need help.

It is an excellent way to earn service hours for those students or organizations who may need them, she said.

Senior Jessica Moody said she will be there with her dog to show her support for Rape Response.

“This race and my $10 can help Rape Response bring awareness about sexual assault to our community, and that is important,” she said.

“We’ve been very blessed that people get out and support it,” she said. “We can’t do it without people taking part and helping us.”