Scores of supporters and survivors came together in Montclair’s beautiful Canterbury Park on Saturday to support S.O.F.I.A. and promote awareness and prevention of domestic violence. Cynthia Walker, the founder and driving force behind Starting Out Fresh Intervention Advocates (SOFIA), welcomed elected officials and community advocates, as well as domestic violence survivors and their family and friends to the 3rd Annual Walk Against Domestic Violence to raise awareness and remind us all that “with awareness there is hope.”
Freeholder Brendan Gill spoke, as did Deputy Mayor Bob Russo. Mayor Robert Jackson arrived later to cheer on walkers and speak at the post-walk ceremony.
Groups and individuals who had collected donations to help fund SOFIA’s many advocacy programs came out to walk the winding track in Canterbury Park, complete with a warm-up with Fit by Aaron. Groups came from around the area, including a group from Little Falls that helps organize an annual candlelight vigil to honor victims of domestic violence in October. Baristanet’s team walked as well, and raised over $1000 to help combat domestic violence, which affects families in our area every day.
After walking, Walker introduced the SOFIA board president, Dr. Nichole Simmons, the Grand Marshal for the walk, who spoke movingly about her own survival of a violent relationship and about how SOFIA and groups like it can help those in dangerous relationships get out and move on. Reverend Simone Oliver, a domestic violence survivor of attempted murder, called on those gathered to remember people like Marissa Alexander, a Florida woman currently serving a 20-year jail sentence for firing a warning shot to frighten off her abusive husband, and the 14-year-old Montana girl who took her own life after being raped by her high school teacher. For each case of violence against women and girls like these, there are many more unknown. Rev. Oliver urged attendees to continue speaking out and supporting one another.
The money raised on Saturday will go towards maintaining the S.O.F.I.A. Success Center, A Healing and Wellness Center for Domestic Violence victims. The center will host workshops and serve as a place of support and safety for those who need it.
If you want to help support SOFIA’s efforts in our community, visit the website and donate on-line. Those preferring to donate with a check can write out a check for SOFIA and send it to PO Box 674, Montclair, NJ 07042. SOFIA is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization.