DRYDEN — Throngs of people — 120 and counting — walked laps Wednesday around the upstairs level of Tompkins Cortland Community College, getting a sticker for each lap.
Three stickers earned them a water bottle, five a purple TC3 shirt.
The event wasn’t about shirts or stickers, however. It was about abusive relationships, something people ages 16 to 24 are more likely to experience, said Jaklyn Van Manen, director of engagement for the One Love Foundation, which organized the event.
Walkers like Carolyn Boone had a special perspective on the issue. As one of the college’s Title IX coordinators, Boone said students come to her every year to report domestic abuse. Often they seek resources or want to learn more about what constitutes an unhealthy relationship, rather than shelter or refuge, she said.
“As people are trying out who they are as an adult and in adult relationships, it creeps up really fast,” Boone said. “The more we know about it and the signs of it and how to intervene, the better.”
One Love’s mission is to end relationship abuse through education and awareness — from how to detect the warning signs of an abusive relationship, to how to reach out and help others who are in those situations, Van Manen said.
The foundation was formed by the family of Yeardley Love, a University of Virginia senior and lacrosse player who was killed by her boyfriend on May 3, 2010, weeks before graduation.
“They realized they had thought about the usual things to protect Yeardley, like educating her about drinking and safe driving. But they never thought she would be at such great risk for being in an unhealthy relationship,” Van Manen said. Their mission became to educate young people about the risks.
Women ages 16 to 24 are at three times greater risk than any other demographic for being in an abusive relationship while young men in that age range are twice as likely, Van Manen said.
So people started walking.
Named “Yards for Yeardley,” the event was started in December 2014 by Boston College and University of Virginia lacrosse players to bring to the forefront the conversation about unhealthy relationships.
The initiative has spread since then.
Throughout the month, said Mick McDaniel, TC3’s athletic director, SUNY schools have a goal to walk 50 million yards, roughly the circumference of the Earth. SUNY Cortland’s event is from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Stadium Sports Complex.
TC3’s goal for the day was 500,000 yards, about 284 miles or 2.4 miles per walker. McDaniel said this morning that walkers tripled that goal, walking 1.5 million yards.
The campus decided to get involved in the event because it came up at a student life meeting, McDaniel said. “I jumped on board and from September to two weeks ago we met once a month.”
The college supplied the stickers, water bottles and shirts and the One Love Foundation had raffle rewards, including tickets to a Jets game.
Van Manen was there to provide support and information. An information table was set up to connect people to nearby resources like the Advocacy Center of Tompkins County.
A big focus is to make the conversation not about “domestic violence” or “abuse,” but about healthy rather than unhealthy relationships, she said. “It makes it so much more relatable and creates a comfortable place to have this conversation.”