About 70 Austinites spent their Saturday morning wearing flippers, pushing hula hoops across the group and carrying balls between their heads to raise money and awareness for SafePlace.
The third-annual SafePlace Field Day, held at Austin High School, brought together teams to compete in wacky relay races, providing a fun way to raise funds for the organization during sexual assault awareness month, said Jodi Tidwell, communications and marketing coordinator for SafePlace.
“We aren’t making light of these issues,” Tidwell said. “We are cheering for the fact that we are making progress and encouraging healthy discussion.”
SafePlace provides emergency and long-term shelter for women, children and men escaping abusive situations, offers counseling and transitional services and organizes community education programs and fundraisers such as the field day, which are critical to funding the organization, she said.
Tidwell said the teams earned about $50,000 creating individual Web pages in which they compete to raise the most funds and awareness for the organization.
“For us, the importance of it is that it also raises awareness,” Tidwell said.
The Blanton Museum of Art hosted an activity at the event in which children painted inspirational messages on denim to prepare for SafePlace Denim Day.
“We ask local businesses to allow their employees to wear denim on this one day in support of sexual assault survivors,” Tidwell said. “Many legislative offices and other Travis County businesses show support.”
Third-year law student Britany Binkowski said she volunteered for the event because she has seen first-hand effects of how SafePlace benefits many lives.
“I worked with the children rights clinic at the law school and had some experience with SafePlace,” Binkowski said. “They are a great organization, and I wanted to do something that would help the community directly.”
Amy Temperley, chief development and communications officer for SafePlace, said the 14 teams competing this year have raised the bar in generating funds by playing off of friendly competition for prizes at the end of the day.
“They are teams of five this year, [including] family teams and corporate groups,” Temperley said. “Some corporations have kind of challenged each other, so that can be interesting. We have people coming for fun and some who come here and really want to win.”
Northwest Austin resident Christine Ellmaker Price, who has been raising funds for SafePlace for 15 years, said she loves how the event encourages teams to find a quirky name and holds unconventional races and games.
“I served as a volunteer for a year after I didn’t have a work team anymore but had to get a team together because I was missing too much fun,” Price said.
Price said her team, “I Heart Tube Socks,” raised $845, mostly by spreading word through Facebook.