The Student Athlete Advisory Committee at Geneseo hosted the event, “One Million Yards for Yeardley” on the college green on Wednesday April 26. Community members were encouraged to walk, run or even roll laps around the green to reach 1 million yards total in an attempt to raise awareness for relationship violence.
In 2010, senior lacrosse player Yeardley Love was beaten to death by her ex-boyfriend, senior lacrosse player George Wesley Huguely. The two student athletes attended the University of Virginia and they were both just three weeks away from their graduation.
To raise awareness for relationship violence, Love’s mother, Sharon Love, began the One Love Foundation. This foundation is introduced to universities all over the nation; it educates students on what comprises relationship violence, how to raise awareness for it and what its consequences are.
SUNY schools are no stranger to relationship violence and its costs, with some of the most detrimental cases taking place at both Geneseo in 2016 and SUNY Brockport in 2012.
The goal of this event was to increase awareness in the community—there was no money raised.
“It’s all about just raising awareness. There aren’t that many people who are perpetuating this violence, it just keeps happening over and over again,” biology and psychology double major sophomore Jenn Buckhout said. Buckhout is a member of the Geneseo tennis team and a future member of SAAC.
“We just want to make bystanders more aware so that they will help,” Buckhout said.
The event has been taking place throughout 10 of the SUNY campuses in order to reach a combined total of 10 million yards. SUNY Fredonia and Brockport held their events on Wednesday April 26, as well. SUNYAC commissioner Tom DiCamillo travelled between the three campuses so that he could participate in each of the events.
“Brockport had 400,000 yards only two hours into the event. This group [Geneseo] had about 300,000, and Fredonia was well on its way, too,” DiCamillo said.
The campuses fully embraced the event and have so far been successful in spreading awareness. It was initially intended to be a one-time event; SAAC representatives, however, are planning otherwise.
“The way this started was trying to build up the SUNYAC SAAC and having a rally around it,” DiCamillo said. “So they used the dating violence, the Yeardley Love story and their own experiences to do this. They would like to do this annually.”
Geneseo reached the 1-million-yard mark with approximately two hours left in the event. The campus really grasped the idea and either made it a point to go and walk or to just simply contribute one lap between their walks to class. Students, faculty members, coaches and community members all partook in the event.
“I think from a Geneseo specific perspective, this is just a way for us to raise awareness regarding relationship and domestic violence,” associate athletic director Liam Welsh said. “It is a passive way for the community to rally against that type of behavior, especially after our experiences.”
Throughout the day, Geneseo athletes could be seen running their warm up laps around the green to gain yards. While all the teams participated in the event, the women’s basketball and men’s ice hockey teams were perhaps the most supportive.
“It’s a big deal for our team, women’s basketball, because it hits close to home,” sophomore guard Kelsey Poplawski said. “We’re trying to get as many people as we can to walk this.”
This walk is an attempt to not only raise awareness, but to also encourage students to participate in other One Love programs, such as their “Escalation” workshop.
“During this 90-minute workshop, students will watch a 45-minute film about relationship violence and use the remaining 45 minutes to discuss it and how they can prevent such violence,” Buckhout said.
Though the Geneseo One Love Foundation consists mainly of athletes, they are looking to change that, as it is open for all students to join. SAAC hopes to make this foundation more popular around campus, and this walk is just the beginning.