Attendance to a day of campus safety events hosted by the Lauren McCluskey Foundation exceeded organizers’ wildest expectations.
Ron Mittelhammer, a professor at Washington State University and long-time family friend to the McCluskeys, said Saturday began with a 5K which they hoped would draw between 65 to 75 runners — there were 180.
Mittlehammer said a dedication ceremony for the Whitman County Humane Society’s new “Lauren McCluskey Cat Wing,” was so packed many were forced to stand.
The day ended with a sold-out, $40-per-plate dinner at Banyans on the Ridge. There was also a brief auction of items donated by local merchants.
Mittelhammer said a portion of the registration fee for the 5K and $10 of every dinner ticket will go toward the foundation, an organization founded in McCluskey’s name that supports charitable efforts related to campus safety as well as amateur athletics and animal welfare.
“There’s a movement (to) which this is contributing — there’s a movement towards taking women’s concerns seriously the first time and amp up campus safety,” Mittelhammer said. “Female or male, when a student comes to you and says ‘I’m in danger, I need help,’ you drop everything and you help.”
A Pullman native and University of Utah track athlete, McCluskey, 21, was murdered nearly a year ago by a man who she had briefly dated, sending shockwaves through the school’s Salt Lake City campus and the Pullman community. McCluskey reportedly broke up with her assailant after learning he was a registered sex offender and filed reports with the police about the man the same month she was murdered.
Her death galvanized many, including Utah State Sen. Jani Iwamoto who was the chief sponsor of a bill bolstering campus safety practices in the state. She said the bill requires colleges that receive state money to have a campus safety plan, expands safety training to student groups as well as university employees and establishes best practice and accountability standards for these institutions.
“Amazingly, Lauren to everything right over and over again — the system failed her,” Iwamoto said during the dinner. “Across the nation, the system has failed our children, It is time to dedicate ourselves to ensuring what happened to Lauren will not happen again.”
Those who spoke Saturday night were in agreement — their work is only beginning. Mesa Weidle, a friend and former teammate of McCluskey’s at the University of Utah, said she was moved to join SASS Go, an organization dedicated to the eradication of abuse, assault and human trafficking that offers self-defense training, educational programing and crisis response consulting.
SASS stands for “surviving assault, standing strong.” Weidle hosted her first self-defense training seminar Saturday afternoon.
“I’m going to teach self-defense classes to every woman I can get my hands on, and I know Lauren’s going to be right there next to me,” Weidle said in an emotional address. “To honor her, I will be teaching self-defense classes until the day I die because I am so passionate about this and I know Lauren deserves (for) her light to shine through me.”
Scott Jackson can be reached at (208) 883-4636, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.