Gray skies couldn’t dampen the mood of the more than 200 participants in the 20th annual Courage Walk in Golden on Saturday morning.
The annual event honors the strength and courage of crime victims and those who have lost loved ones to violence. The Courage Walk coincides with National Victims’ Rights Week.
Jeffco probation department employees Brandy Lewis and Wendy Ala participated in the Courage Walk for the first time.
“(The walk) is such a good cause,” Ala said. “It’s very moving that so many people come out to support this.”
The walk is open to anyone, and participants were treated to a free continental breakfast. A $10 suggested donation was asked of participants.
After registering, walkers were given a paper “dove” and were asked to write the name of a person or group that had been a victim of violence. The doves were then hung on a board with the heading “In Honor Of.” A few doves reading “Boston Strong” and “Columbine” could be seen. Saturday marked the 14-year anniversary of the Columbine High School shootings.
“We wanted to honor victims in a more concrete way this year,” said volunteer Bri Berens. “In years past, we’ve only read the names aloud after the walk.”
After a moment of silence, Jeffco Sheriff Ted Mink led the crowd on a half-mile walk from the district attorney’s office to the Courage Garden behind the government center.
“I came here to walk for and honor my victims,” said Kris Zumalt, a former Jeffco prosecutor. “We’re all here to honor the victims of crime.”
After the walk, District Attorney Pete Weir thanked everyone for their support and asked St. Anthony Hospital Chaplain Charles Adone to lead a prayer.
“Keep us safe from the weapons of hate,” Adone prayed. “And restore to us tranquility and peace.”
Main speaker Jane Pemberton, managing director of domestic violence services for the nonprofit Family Tree, shared a story about a high school friend whom she identified as “Jill.”
Pemberton said Jill found herself in a relationship with a man who was verbally and physically abusive. Pemberton then revealed that she was “Jill.”
“I joined a support group …,” Pemberton said. “I eventually … began my journey to healing.”
Event coordinators recited the names placed on the “In Honor Of” board, and after all the names were read, white doves were released.
“The event went really well,” said event co-coordinator Bette Gomez. “It was such a wonderful turnout.”
Gomez said Saturday’s event raised $3,548, slightly less than last year’s $4,000. The money raised goes to maintaining the Courage Garden, training victim advocate volunteers, and providing for the needs of crime victims.
As the ceremony came to a close, and attendees wiped away tears, the clouds receded and the sun shone — inviting smiles and hugs for the walk back.
“It’s important for people to know that there’s help out there,” Gomez said. “We must keep fighting for victims’ rights.”