CSM Joins Zonta of Charles County in RAVE Walk, Oct. 13

Event Raises Scholarship Funds for Victims of Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault

            Victims of domestic violence and sexual assault are getting support to survive and move on through a memorial scholarship fund established by Zonta of Charles County at the College of Southern Maryland named for Gayle A. Cooke, a victim/witness coordinator for the Charles County State’s Attorney’s Office (CCSAO).

To help people who are survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, Zonta is sponsoring the ninth annual RAVE (Rape and Violence Eradication) Walk on Saturday, Oct. 13 at CSM’s La Plata Campus. This year’s walk will raise money for the Zonta RAVE Walk Scholarship at CSM in Memory of Gayle A. Cooke. Cooke, a mother of six, worked as a victim’s advocate for nearly 15 years before being shot and killed in her La Plata home in 2000. According to RAVE Walk co-chair Ann Rees, Cooke’s scholarship was established at CSM with an initial gift of $12,500 to provide financial assistance to help survivors of domestic violence or sexual assault to complete an educational program that will allow them to secure employment and financial stability necessary for independence and self-sufficiency.

“I think my mom would appreciate the scholarship and the efforts to support victims through educational opportunities that will allow them to better their lives,” said Denise Cooke, one of Gayle Cooke’s six children. “Our mom stood by people as they went through the court process; she knew the courage that it took for people to come forward and try to change their lives. She worked for years to help people. This scholarship in her memory is an awesome gift—she would like that her life’s work to help people continues through a scholarship for survivors of domestic violence. It also takes a lot of courage to go back to school and she would be proud to know that a scholarship in her name is going to help make the choice to return to school a little bit easier.”

 “The Zontas, several of whom were friends with our mother, have worked tirelessly to get this program off the ground. We owe a world of gratitude and thanks to them for honoring her,” said Michele M. Cooke.

 “Our mother was an amazing lady. She was loving, strong and independent. She loved her job as victim/witness coordinator—it was her life's calling,” said Valerie Cooke Stoner. “Our mom helped to give a voice to victims who felt that they had none and this scholarship is also helping to give these victims a voice, by giving them the tools to stand on their own. We would like the recipients to know that our mom would be so proud of them. Proud that they found their voice and had the courage to use it. I truly believe that my mom is still walking beside them encouraging them to start a new life full of hope and new possibilities; she was the best cheerleader.”

“People are finally realizing that they have support from court advocates, coordinators and service providers and it appears that people are following through on domestic violence and sexual assault reports filed,” said CCSAO Domestic Violence Coordinator Rosemary Raiman. According to Raiman, for the period between July 1, 2011 and June 30, 2012, there were 719 protective order petitions filed in District Court, with 501 temporary protective orders granted and 220 final protective orders granted in Charles County. In the past six months, Raiman said she has fielded more than 80 phone calls on average each month from people with follow-up questions, safety checks and support in navigating the legal system.

“This scholarship is making a difference in the lives of so many women and we look forward to awarding many more through funding from Zonta’s RAVE Walk Scholarship in Memory of Gayle A. Cooke Scholarship,” said CSM Development Director Martina Arnold.

The RAVE Walk registration opens at 7:30 a.m. at the Physical Education (PE) Center on CSM’s La Plata Campus. Pre-registration is $20 through RaveWalk@comcast.net. Registration on the day of the walk is $25. The program will include opening remarks from event organizers with the 5K fun run/walk beginning at 8:15 a.m.

Zonta International is a worldwide service organization of executives in business and the professions working together to advance the status of women with nearly 33,000 members in more than 1,200 clubs in 67 counties and geographic areas.

For information, contact Rees at 410-991-8848 or RaveWalk@comcast.net, or visit www.zontacharlescounty.org. For information on scholarships at CSM, visit www.csmd.edu/Foundation/.  

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