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Palm Coast Saturday, Jun. 18, 2022 1 week ago

One Love supports victims of domestic abuse

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'Our cause is truly a labor of love and commitment to families that have been affected by domestic violence.'
by: Guest Writer

by: Kerry Cooke

It seemed like just yesterday when the idea of One Love came to me and a small group of tennis friends. Quickly, we introduced the idea to the general manager of Hammock Beach, Brad Hauer, and tennis director Gene Paul Lascano in the fall of 2018.

We ran by the vision of bringing tennis players from all over the United States to play in a charity tournament to support women and children in Flagler County that needed our support. They all were immediately on board. For over a decade, I have collected names of players and have been introduced to players from USTA matches near and far. It was from that database and a strong passion to help women battling through domestic violence that One Love was born.

With just a few tennis friends on board in 2019, we created a website and a tournament. Players from all over were excited, booked their rooms to stay at Hammock Beach Resort and took a personal interest in the cause. The first year, USTA was a huge support and added us to their tournaments, so we had players come from all over the United States, such as Texas, South Carolina, North Carolina, Orlando and Jacksonville. And many local players took part in the event as well.

Our first One Love was a great success, and much more than what we anticipated. The local community also took part in the One Love Tennis ball auction where we raised a significant amount to help our charity, The Family Life Center and shelter. 

Since then, COVID hit, and we were unable to have our event in 2020 and 2021, but our hearts were still beating strong for the cause. In 2021, Julie Silva and I started our own nonprofit, Women with Wings, to spread awareness and help support as many women as possible during the pandemic and through the proceeds of One Love 2022.

Our cause is truly a labor of love and commitment to families that have been affected by domestic violence. We weren’t going to give up on the cause because of COVID. We still made annual contributions to The Family Life Center, but we were determined to open up One Love this year.

The tennis tournament was a dream in the making. To have ladies come from all parts of the U.S. to our community and support other women is truly a beautiful meaning of sisterhood at its finest. Ladies from all over came for one weekend to fight for one cause — supporting domestic violence victims — which in essence is our tennis family meaning of One Love. But the only way we could keep fighting was to bring awareness and bring in funds to our own non-profit to help. 

Our tournament in 2022 was much more than you could imagine. Within 10 days of opening registration in February we were sold out. That meant 128 players were due to arrive in May for us to host a four-day tennis tournament. Calls and support started coming in from other women and businesses.

Sponsors such as Beachfront Grille, Roadies and Bruster’s/Nathans provided player lunches, and donors such as Rulon International, Storage Central, Fischer Concreate, Intracoastal Bank, Furniture 2 Go, Florida Family Dentistry, Schuster Law Firm and Voya Financial came to bat for us. Friends even pitched in to provide T-shirts, swag, and even a fashion show.

My girlfriends are the best. Without them and their commitment to this vision, we could never do all of this. It certainly takes a village. Flagler County has provided Julie and I personally with such amazing friends over the past 20 years, and our tennis community has a way of always coming together for each other.

They ran around collecting items for the auction, made baskets, added artwork to T-shirts and hats, provided entertainment, sold our “best friends tennis closet clothing” and jumped in when we needed them most. If it were not for these donations and volunteers, we would have never been able to give the Family Life Center so much.

We are very proud of this event and hope for it to grow and grow for years to come. It is truly our legacy of love for women and children of Flagler County. Women with Wings, along with the players and community, were able to raise and donate $48,500 net to give to the Family Life Center from One Love proceeds. 

Our tournament was filled with love for four days, and the sign of the butterfly was prevalent throughout the event. We felt when starting our charity, Women with Wings, that the butterfly was appropriate as many women feel trapped and worn like caterpillars searching and fighting for a day when they can become beautiful butterflies. Our goal has always been to help as many women as we can become butterflies. 

The ladies even wore butterflies on their clothing and butterfly tattoos to show their signs of support. We had an oversized butterfly for pictures with all of the attendees to bring awareness to the cause. Women who come to this event are here for the fun and camaraderie, but throughout the event they never lose focus of what our cause is really about: Women honoring and fighting for other women.

This tournament does take a large amount of time to prepare, and a community of individuals that are passionate about the cause, to pull this off every year. So, there are definitely volunteer opportunities available, and we hope to gain some college students next year to do internship work with our nonprofit. We are truly beaming with pride and enthusiasm over this event and what it means for us as a community to be able to give back.

Domestic Violence hits big for many women and families, with children especially. It is not always physical. It is damaging for many women’s souls and causes so much stress and family hurt and damage. As many heard the speeches from families of domestic violence victims at the One Love Tennis Ball on Friday May 13th, several survivors, family members, Trish Giaconne of the Family Life Center and police officer Jennifer Nawrocki spoke about the effects during and the aftereffects of domestic violence.

Julie Silva, my Women with Wings co-founder, told a story about a woman named Pamela Leonard who was in an abusive situation and her husband’s attempt to kill her. In October of 2018 their world’s collided, literally. After Pamela escaped the home he was trying to kill her in, she attempted to flee, and then in fear, entered into oncoming traffic.  She hit a car traveling on the opposite side of the road, causing both cars to tumble, light on fire, killing the victim and causing lasting injuries to the driver of the other vehicle. The other driver was Julie’s son, Brandon.

We later began to wonder, what if Pamela had someone who could’ve helped her? What if someone didn’t turn a blind eye to the abuser. Would Pamela still be alive? We are lucky that Brandon is alive. If it wasn’t for a priest outside of a rectory that night who pulled Brandon from his flaming car, Brandon might not have survived.

Domestic abuse affects everyone, not just the victims. It causes a ripple effect which damages family. ... If you see the signs of abuse, it is time to do something.

Domestic abuse affects everyone, not just the victims. It causes a ripple effect which damages family. Those affected are our friends, neighbors, mothers, sisters, co-workers, children. Even our own sons and daughters. If you see the signs of abuse, it is time to do something.

We hope that our bringing light and awareness to domestic violence through Women with Wings and One Love is that people will not continue to turn the other cheek when they see abuse happening, and they will not enable abusers anymore. It is all too common to turn the other way. If you know it is happening and you do nothing, then you are part of the problem. You may choose to look the other way, but you can never again say you didn’t know, especially when abuse turns fatal. You have to live with that if you did nothing but enable the abuser. 

Domestic violence affects one out of four women and the members of their families and can cause emotional and long-term trauma. Many times, emotional and financial abuse cause as much damage as physical abuse, and unfortunately the court system too is somewhat broken where many women lose everything, including their children and access to funds, while trying to escape.

The money we raise provides them a means to find the help, shelter, support, counseling and the resources to get through, survive and eventually become free and independent again. It is most certainly our legacy of love for women and children of Flagler County. Thank you to everyone involved who shared in our vision. This is truly becoming One common Love in our community! 

For more information on donating to this cause please visit oneloveflagler.net .

 

 

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