Celebrating other voices against violence
In addition to the appearance by Don McPherson, Tuesday’s Red Shoe event included awards recognizing the work people from Great Bend have done in the fight against domestic and sexual violence, an appearance by the family member of a victim, and uplifting music by Great Bend singers Ian and Maxwell McGilber.
Visionary Voice Award
Laura Patzner, executive director of the Family Crisis Center, is a Great Bend person on the front lines of helping to raise awareness of the ways domestic and sexual violence are perpetuated. Her work speaking out and helping families in Kansas to feel safe in their homes, schools and workplaces was recognized Tuesday night at the event when Joyce Grover of the Kansas Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence presented her with the Visionary Voices 2016 award. Patzner received the award for her continuing work to protect victims from perpetrators and to provide services to the community to help stem the tide of violence.
Man Enough Award
Barton County Commissioner Don Davis was recognized with the Man Enough Award at the event for his exemplary efforts working with the Family Crisis Center to end domestic and sexual violence. He also received an award for raising the most during the Red Shoe season.
The Great Bend High School seniors have been making music together for years, and in recent years began posting singles of their original work on iTunes,Google Play, Spotify, and YouTube, becoming minor celebrities among the youth of Great Bend and the surrounding area. Tuesday night, to close the emotional night, they shared their song, “Love Someone.”
Ongoing needs and sponsors
Joanne Wondra, organizer of Tuesday’s event, thanked partners that made Tuesday night’s presentation possible, including: the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence, Barton Community College, Walmart, Great Bend Middle School Booster Club, Eagle Radio and the Great Bend Tribune.
She also thanked community supporters and sponsors of the event, including: Cuna Mutual, Stueder Contractors Inc., Great Bend Regional Hospital, P&S Security, P&S Electric Roustabout Service Inc., Scott’s Welding Service, Venture Corp./Chris and Julie Spray, OPI, Keller Real Estate, Holiday Inn Express & Suites, Marmie Motors /Marmie Ford, Beautiful Beginnings, Flavored Creations, Rana Luna and Cornerstone Interiors.
Brooklyn, New York, born Don McPherson wasn’t shy about sharing his appreciation of his new friends in Great Bend Tuesday. Here for one day to help spread the message that men have a part to play in raising awareness of and battling domestic and sexual violence, he wasn’t afraid to share his bothersome concerns of what it means to be in tornado country in the springtime. It didn’t make him any less a man. Quite the contrary.
Soon after being picked up at the Wichita airport Monday, he learned the area was under a warning for severe weather that could include tornadoes. The former NFL and Canadian League professional football player chose to trust and put his life in the hands of a group of Kansas women, and when sirens went off Tuesday during a private luncheon with Red Shoe Event organizers, he was quickly assured there was nothing to worry about.
They assured him the weekly alarm was part of the rhythm of life in the Midwest. Tornado sirens, for these people who instinctively pronounce his name correctly due to their proximity to the town of the same name, are part of the playbook for emergency preparedness in our corner of the country.
As an advocate and speaker, as well as a retired professional athlete, McPherson knows all about playbooks. He developed one to help people begin the tough conversations about how violence against women at the hands of men is a problem that can’t be ignored. The playbook promotes practicing what to do if confronted with scenarios that could lead to violence, both domestic or sexual. This playbook he shared with members of the Barton County Young Professionals at the Shafer Gallery at Barton Community College in the afternoon.
DeBolt opens up
At the evening event, Dawn DeBolt addressed the audience, sharing with them what she and her family went through when a family member became the victim of sexual violence.
DeBolt is the sister of Alicia DeBolt, the Great Bend teen that was murdered in 2010 by a man known to her.
What happened to her sister has had a lasting effect on the family. Now, as a parent, she urges parents to be aware of what their children are doing, monitoring emails, social media and texts and making sure they know the people their children associate with.
“As a sibling, you don’t have a lot of control over how your brothers and sisters as raised, but when tragedies such as Alicia’s take place, its not just the parents that suffer. The siblings do, and so does the rest of the family,” she said. “As parents, we have to remember we are their parents first and foremost, and their friends last. We have to remember that the world we live in now is lot more scary and a lot more different than when we grew up.”
Taking the stage following DeBolt’s presentation, McPherson was visibly moved. In a departure from his planned talk, he shared his experiences as a man coming from a place of privilege, the lessons he learned about the culture of how men learn what it means to be a man from his perspective as a former professional athlete.
“We need to have the courage to speak honestly and truthfully about the way men need to change the culture of that produces abusers, rapists and murderers,” he said. “It was not her (Alicia) last lie that was the cause of what happened to her. It was not her hate. It was his. We cannot define her death by her behaviors. If we do that, we’ll fail to see where the solution is.”
Starting the conversation early
Earlier Tuesday, McPherson visited Great Bend Middle School, where he provided an age appropriate overview of the concept behind his evening talk. Students were encouraged to think about the language they use when describing what it means to be a man. In many instances, statements like, “you throw like a girl,” and “don’t be a sissy,” are common speak among young children, beginning a cycle early on of thinking of women and girls as “less than” men. The statements also have the power to make boys feel they need to shut off feelings in order to be considered manly.
Neither result is healthy, McPherson said, and it’s up to everyone to speak up and not allow those statements to continue to allow men and women to feel driven apart from one another.
They only serve to fuel violence. Men, who receive the message they need to shut down their feelings, act out with violence. Women, who receive the message they are less than or unworthy, allow themselves to be treated with disrespect. Instead, men and women need to work together to foster respect and trust between one another.
Starting the conversation, however, is the hard part, McPherson said. People need to make a conscious decision to practice what they will say or do when confronted with violence, otherwise the tendency is to remain silent, and violence wins.
Top fundraisers recognized
After delivering his message, top fundraisers for the Family Crisis Center during the Red Shoe season were recognized. They included Nicholas Wondra and Alisha Wheeler.
In addition, Mr. Stein’s was the top-earning class, and earned a pizza party. Finally, the students voted to have weights instructor Kip Wilson “walk a mile in her shoes,” wearing a pair of red 4-inch high heels at the assembly.