A pillar of the Power of SUNY is our commitment to New Yorkers and communities across the state. Our students, faculty, and staff work hard to improve the lives of all New Yorkers through whatever means they can. There is no better example of this than the SUNY’s Got Your Back initiative, a partnership between SUNY and the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NYSCASA), the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NYSCADV), and the SUNY Title IX Coordinators Association (STIXCA) .
According to NYSCASA, the FBI and the Journal of Traumatic Stress estimate that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 11 men will be the victims of sexual assault at least once in their lifetime. These events are traumatic to the victims, and when they go to seek help, often times they are alone with nothing by their side. When it was started in 2016, the effort behind SUNY’s Got Your Back was to to collect comfort kits for victims and survivors of sexual and interpersonal violence who come to shelters and centers across the Empire State with nothing. In assembling these bags, we obtain small comfort items like shampoo, soap, lotions, dental care, tissues, note pads, and more, all to give the victims a small sense of comfort knowing they have some of the necessities to help them begin to recover.
This year, SUNY’s partnership with the PGA TOUR was made larger, extending out to include the PGA TOUR Champions. On August 17, SUNY was invited to the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open, a champions tour event near Binghamton, in an effort to fill 5,000 comfort bags for regional sexual assault and domestic violence shelters around the Southern Tier. That effort was a success. But we weren’t done yet. The following week, on August 23, SUNY set up shop at the Northern Trust Open in Old Westbury for the first stop of the PGA TOUR Playoffs. The goal here was the same – fill 5,000 bags for regional shelters throughout Long Island and Albany. Again, the results were a resounding success.
“The SUNY Title IX Coordinators Association is thankful for the support of the PGA TOUR and the PGA TOUR Wives Association, our STIXCA members, our community partners and our students,” said Lisa Evaneski, Title IX Coordinator at SUNY Oswego and President of the SUNY Title IX Coordinators Association. “It was incredible to see us all come together and provide these care bags for survivors of sexual or interpersonal violence.”
Among the two events, we had hundreds of volunteers join us from many campuses, including Binghamton University, Broome Community College, Old Westbury, Farmingdale State, and more. Campus leaders, including Broome president Kevin Drumm, Farmingdale President John Nader, and Old Westbury President Calvin O. Butts III all got involved and helped fill bags themselves.
“Providing support in any way we can for those who are victims of violence and abuse is a role that each and every one of us should play when we have the opportunity, said Old Westbury President Dr. Calvin O. Butts. I was proud today to see so many SUNY Old Westbury students and staff volunteer their time to help generate awareness, raise funds and create comfort bags for those in need. Through programs like ‘SUNY’s Got Your Back,’ our students, staff and the community our college serves experience the importance of speaking out and supporting victims of violence and abuse.”
These campus leaders joined the hundreds of students in attendance, adding to the community spirit of the events.
The students all took pride in lending a hand to a valued initiative. Hear it from Saben Durio, a student working towards his Masters in Educational Policy and Leadership at the University at Albany, and an intern at SUNY System Administration. “As a student on a college campus, SUNY’s Got Your Back is such an important event to me. Any time that an opportunity presents itself to help survivors of these terrible events, I feel it is my duty, as it should be all of ours, to help. It makes me proud to know that each one of the bags assembled will go to people who can truly benefit from the care and compassion of others.”
After all was done, a total of 10,000 comfort bags were packed and delivered to shelters across New York, bringing the grand total to 20,000 bags for the program. In addition, $15,000 was donated from the PGA TOUR and PGA TOUR Wives Association to the SUNY’s Got Your Back Program. That money will do wonders in helping the program continue to grow and help more and more victims in the future. It goes to show that when communities come together, we can truly help our neighbors in need.
In addition to the PGA Tour, PGA Tour Wives Association, and the Norther Trust Open, the 2017 SUNY’s Got Your Back Program has been supported by the New York State Police, JM Murray of Cortland, the Specialty Advertising Association of Greater New York (SAAGNY), the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, Staples, Field Notes, Notes Inc. a division of Dupli Envelopes and Graphics, Monster Energy, Nielson.
A social media roundup of the two SUNY’s Got Your Back events can be found below:
Taras Kufel is the Manager of Digital Engagement at the State University of New York.