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Inauguration: Spotlight on service

At first glance, the Freedom Bear looks like any other cute, fuzzy stuffed animal. But the special bear is so much more.
The teddy bear is a signature part of the after care kits provided by Fear 2 Freedom, a nonprofit founded in 2011 to help sexual assault survivors. The little bear holds a small, blue backpack containing slips of dissolving paper. Survivors are encouraged to write their thoughts, fears, and worries on the
paper and then pass them on to Freedom Bear’s heart, which features a special area to hold them.
The idea behind the therapeutic exercise is that when they are ready, survivors can remove the papers from Freedom Bear’s heart and dissolve them in water, releasing them.

The bears were just one part of the special kits packed by members of the Randolph College community as part of a Spotlight on Service for Sue Ott Rowlands’ inauguration weekend.

“It was so nice to see so many different members of our community come out to support such a worthy organization,” Ott Rowlands said. “As we were planning the inauguration, I knew service needed to be an important part. To be able to support the incredible efforts of Fear 2 Freedom is an honor, and to know that these kits will provide a little bit of hope to survivors of sexual assault in our area makes the whole project even more inspiring.”

Fear 2 Freedom helps victims through service-oriented educational programs and AfterCare and iCare kits for children and adult victims.

“Our mission is to restore hope and dignity to survivors of sexual assault and,  at the same time, educate and empower students to be the change, to combat it in all its forms,” Virginia Woodward, Fear 2 Freedom’s chief executive officer, said during the Saturday morning event at Randolph. “The healing journey takes time, and it takes courage. It’s not something that’s a one-size-fits-all, and it takes all of us working together to make a difference.”

About 75 students, faculty, staff, and friends of the College packed 150 Fear 2 Freedom kits during the inauguration event. All of the kits will stay in Lynchburg to help local sexual assault survivors.

“It’s so important and inspirational for students to see the impact of community service,” Woodward said. “We are so grateful to be part of this celebration and to honor her inauguration by helping 150 survivors in this area and right here on campus. We are just so inspired by your new president.”

The kits are designed to aid victims in their recovery, both physically and emotionally. In addition to Freedom Bear, they include a full set of replacement clothes for victims, whose clothing is often taken as evidence, along with toiletries, a special stone, a journal, resource cards, and notes of encouragement.

“These kits are special,” Woodward said. “To have something that offers compassion in that moment is really important.”

The event began with remarks from Ott Rowlands, Dean of Students Chris Lemasters, Woodward, and Linda Ellis-Williams, director of victim services at the YWCA of Central Virginia.

“Randolph has always been deeply committed to social change and activism,” Ott Rowlands told volunteers. “The women of Randolph-Macon Woman’s College set the example that we still try to follow today to be good stewards of our community.”

Ellis-Williams shared statistics about the prevalence of sexual assault and emphasized the importance of events like this one.

“Let’s start by believing, and let’s start by making a difference,” she said. “Your presence here today says that.”

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