DASAS seeking participants for upcoming fundraiser

Participants in Domestic and Sexual Abuse Service’s (DASAS) newest Cass County fundraiser will be asked to trade in their usual pair high heels for a set of running shoes.

The tri-county victim support organization is introducing a new event for area residents, Survivor Stomp, which will take place Saturday, April 30, at Fred Russ Forest Park. The event will feature a 5K run and 1.4 mile walk, both of which will kick off at 9 a.m. that day along the trails of the park, located outside Dowagiac on Marcellus Highway.

The Survivor Stomp is intended to replace DASAS’s previous major Cass County fundraiser, Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, where people participated in a mile-long walk, with men encouraged to wear high heel shoes. While that event took place during the summer in years past, the new fundraiser was moved up to April, which is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, said DASAS Director Kim Kramer.

While the organization will still host a Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event in St. Joseph County in August, the new format of the Survivor Stomp is a response to the stalled growth of the Cass County version, Kramer said. The concept of hosting a run/walk was suggested by an intern, herself an avid runner, with the idea of hosting it in the idyllic scenery of Russ Forest branching out from there, the director said.

“Runners are always looking for something new and different,” Kramer said. “I’m hoping this will draw in some people who haven’t been to one of our events before.”

Organizers chose to set the distance of the walk at 1.4 miles in recognition of statistics that show that one in every four women are or will become victims of sexual or domestic violence in their lifetimes, Kramer said.

Participants in both the run and walk will be given stickers with the name of one of the 66 local residents who lost their lives due to these types of abuse in the Cass County area over the years, which the runner will affix to his or her outfit, Kramer said.

“As people are walking and running, they will be carrying that person — and their story — with them,” Kramer said.

The event will function as one of the major fundraising activities for DASAS, which budgets $30,000 worth of community donations for its operations every year, Kramer said. While previous Walk a Mile in Her Shoes raised around $6,000 every year in Cass County, the director is hoping the change in format will result in $8,000 worth of donations brought in through the Survivor Stomp this year, she said.

The organization, which serves the population of Cass, St. Joseph and Van Buren counties, offers a number of services to victims and families of domestic and sexual violence. Besides DASAS’s victim shelter in Three Rivers, the organization provides supportive counseling, legal advocacy and other services that help rebuild survivors’ lives and their faith in the justice system after suffering abuse, Kramer said.

“The need is great and [our] funding is always shrinking, so we rely heavier than ever on our community to support these services that others really need,” Kramer said.

Registration for the 5K run costs $25, with participants receiving a free T-shirt. There is no charge to register for the walk, though people are asked to collect pledges from others in the community — those who collect $25 or more will receive a free T-shirt as well. Anyone who receives a T-shirt will also be entered into a raffle for a free Fitbit fitness tracker during the event as well.

Registration for both events can be done prior to the event online at www.raceentry.com/races/survivor-stomp- 5k/2016/register, or can be done onsite that morning beginning at 8 a.m.

Kramer encourages residents across Cass County to come out to the Survivor Stomp and participate, she said.

“It’s an important and visible way of showing your support to victims and their families,” she said.

Businesses can also sponsor the event by contacting Kramer at (269) 273-6154.

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