WATERVILLE — Angela Leary had very personal reasons for running in the 8th annual One in Five 5K race Sunday to benefit the Sexual Assault Crisis and Support Center.

“I used the Sexual Assault Center 14 years ago,” said Leary, 44, of Albion. “I was molested by my father. It’s near and dear to my heart.”

Dressed in a Wonder Woman costume and surrounded by 42 other team members, including family and friends, Leary, wearing the number 78, posed for a group photo inside the gymnasium at Thomas College before running the race.

Dressed as Wonder Woman, Angela Leary takes off at the start of the One in Five 5K event Sunday to benefit the Sexual Assault Crisis & Support Center at Thomas College in Waterville. Morning Sentinel photo by David Leaming

“We’re all heroes,” Leary said. “We wouldn’t have made it without the Sexual Assault Center. They were there, every step of the way. I always said, when I was strong enough, I wanted to help somebody else.”

About 550 people from all over the state, but mostly Somerset and Kennebec counties, took part in the event. The One in Five 5K is named as such because an estimated one in every five people in Maine and nationwide has experienced sexual abuse, according to Donna Strickler, executive director of the Sexual Assault Crisis and Support Center.

With an office in Winthrop and child advocacy centers both there and in Waterville, the center supports survivors of sexual abuse and their families, Strickler said.

“We see over 300 children a year, and that doesn’t include all the family members we provide services for,” she said. “It’s one of the most under reported crimes in the county, but we know that we receive over 1,500 calls a year from people who have experienced sexual violence.”

Sunday’s race, she said, would raise between $30,000 and $35,000 for the center.

“This helps us to continue to receive federal dollars, but it’s much more than that,” she said. “We raise awareness. What we have found is, after this event, our calls go up because people do see that wrap-around support.”

Runners, walkers, family, friends and other supporters gathered in the gym before the 5K started. Participants were to walk and run down West River Road toward Kennedy Memorial Drive, turning on Roland Street and heading back to campus.

Runners included members of Maine State Police, Augusta and Waterville police departments, state Department of Health and Human Services, the Somerset and Kennebec District Attorneys Office and other organizations.

District Attorney Maeghan Maloney, who also is president of the Board of Directors for the Assault Center, was one of 15 team members from from her office participating Sunday.

“Our office is really committed to this group,” Maloney said before the race. “I’ve been able to see from the board perspective how financially and fiscally conservative this organization is, so we know that every dollar is going to the purpose that it’s intended to go. So as a result, the office is extremely supportive.”

The center’s mission is important, Maloney said.

“The more that we talk about sexual assault at a community level, the less it happens,” she said. “We bring awareness, and events like this change the community culture and it spreads the message that sexual assault is not acceptable behavior. It also helps people to feel they can speak up if they have been sexually assaulted, and it gives them strength to find their voice.”

Maine State Police Lt. Col. Bill Harwood and state police Sgt. Barry Meserve were running as part of a 21-member team that included troopers, dispatchers, the State Bureau of Identification unit and family members and friends.

“We really love helping our partner agencies, and to be able to support the Sexual Assault and Crisis Center is important to us,” Harwood said. “It’s a great cause to be here for, and the support of community is what we’re all about.”

He said state police also get to see each others’ families, which they do not get to do often, at the event. Meserve said the 5K is a way for police, families and friends to be healthy, get out in the fresh air and run for an important cause.

“It’s a cause that touches our hearts because we see men and women affected by sexual assault every day,” he said.

The Assault Center provides support groups, justice system advocacy, school-based prevention education and a 24-hour hotline, free of charge. The hotline number is 1-800-871-7741.

Augusta police Lt. Chris Massey and his wife, Mandy, were running with their dogs — Max, a black labrador, and Brouin, a chocolate lab — as part of a 7-member team from the police department.

“We want to come out and contribute to their cause because they support law enforcement — and because of everything that they do,” Massey said.

Strickler said that this year event organizers encouraged people to being their people-friendly dogs on leashes.

“Hometown Veterinary Care is giving them treats and has watering stations,” Strickler said. “We wanted to be as family-friendly as possible and have people understand and have an awareness that one in five Mainers have experienced sexual violence. And we as a community can come together to make a difference.”

She said a huge piece of the effort is sponsorships.

“KSW (Federal Credit Union) supports us with a good amount of money and are part of our fundraising committee and did a fundraiser for us ,” Strickler said. “I really am blessed to have this community come out in huge numbers to support what we do. Mix 107.9 has been here, every step of the way. They’re on our committee, doing some live remotes. Half their staff is here right now. Colby College just recently signed up the whole football team, of 44 people. News Center Maine is a huge supporter, with TV ads and staff, and they come to the committee.”

Central Maine Motors, Kennebec Savings Bank, KeyBank, Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel, Sam’s Club and Tex Tech Industries are among event supporters.

The race started promptly at 9 a.m., with one in five runners wearing teal-colored bibs in recognition of the one in five who have been sexually abused. It was sunny, cool and windy.

“Have a great time, and know that the whole time you’re out there, you’re making a difference,” Strickler told the crowd.

The race took place during April, which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

 

Amy Calder — 861-9247
[email protected]
Twitter: @AmyCalder17


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