SOWINS volunteer Diane Fru gives a quick speech before small groups went out to Walk to End Abuse along the Okanagan Lake from the Peach to the Sicamous on Sunday, June 13, 2021. A record amount of over $53K was raised. (Monique Tamminga Western News)

Walk to End Abuse in South Okanagan breaks fundraising record

More than $53,000 raised so far while the pandemic has increased need for SOWINS' services

  • Jun. 13, 2021 12:00 a.m.

The South Okanagan Women in Need Society (SOWINS) has broken their fundraising record for the annual Walk to End Abuse that took place virtually and in person across South Okanagan on Sunday, June 13. With funds still coming in, the walk has already surpassed their target of $50,000 with over $53,000 raised so far.

“The South Okanagan communities have always been so supportive and this year the generosity has been amazing,” said Danielle Goulden, SOWINS’ new executive director.

Dedicated volunteer Diane Fru and her family, SOWINS board members and members of the public walked in small groups from the Peach to the SS Sicamous and back on Sunday morning. Some wore orange shirts to honour the 215 children found buried at the former residential school in Kamloops.

Fru has been a volunteer with SOWINS since 2015 and personally raised over $2,000 this year.

She shares her story of domestic abuse to let women know they aren’t alone and there is hope.

“Over 50 years ago, I’m not sure if there was such an organization, I so felt alone – just trying to survive,” said Fru. “My terrible and abusive life lasted about 13 years from 1968 to 1981 and my point in telling my story is – so others can have hope. If I can make it through, anyone can,” Fru said.

Fru remembers fleeing with her young children in the middle of the night.

“I got out – I was determined; enough was enough for me and my two children – and I stopped believing what I was being told – that it was my fault, I was a bad person and no one else would want me.”

Knowing there are organizations like SOWINS can be life-saving, said Fru.

Her husband Rod is on the SOWINS board and together they have volunteered and helped organize many fundraisers for the South Okanagan agency.

SOWINS is celebrating 40 years serving the community and looks to continue to grow their programs as the needs grows. The pandemic has only increased domestic abuse and isolation for women. According to Goulden, this year they’ve seen a large increase in calls from women. In police reports across the Okanagan and Similkameen, they’ve seen an increase in domestic abuse calls for service.

In 2019, SOWINS took 2,50 crisis calls, helped house 5,885 women, 3,510 children, with the shelter at capacity for 337 days of 2019.

Sadly, 307 women and children could not be sheltered, according to SOWINS.

This is why the amount raised is so important.

“It has been incredible to see this virtual walk all come together. It was a hard working group of dedicated volunteers that pulled this together in a very short period of time,” said Goulden.

Fru pointed out that this year’s money raised is from individual donations, big and small.

Programs that SOWINS offers include emergency sheltering, second stage housing, child and youth counselling, counselling for women, community based Victim Services, youth programming and emergency sheltering, the Explore Program, The Centre and mobile outreach services.

The funds raised will help SOWINS continue to provide these services to those in need in the South Okanagan from Summerland to the border and to Princeton.

To support the SOWINS Virtual Walk to End Abuse, click here to donate today.

READ MORE: Large turnout for 2018 Walk To End Abuse

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Small groups went out to Walk to End Abuse along the Okanagan Lake from the Peach to the Sicamous on Sunday, June 13, 2021. A record amount of over $53K was raised for SOWINS. (Monique Tamminga Western News)