A Zumbathon took place this past Friday at the New Balance Recreation Center on the University of Maine campus to collect donations for Spruce Run-Womancare Alliance and to raise awareness about domestic violence.
Spruce Run is an organization that offers information and support for women in abusive relationships or situations. Spruce Run was “the first domestic violence project in Maine and just the third in the country” when it came together in 1973, according to their website.
Spruce Run joined up with Womancare in October 2013 to form the Spruce Run-Womancare Alliance. Their services include a 24-hour hotline, emergency shelter, support and educational groups, transitional housing, children’s services and more.
“It’s important to me because as a female, I see around me a lot of my friends or distant family members who have spouses or boyfriends who might either physically or emotionally abuse them,” Shirly Stephen, a graduate student at UMaine who attended the event, said.
The Zumbathon Facebook page notes 117 people who were in attendance. This number is likely lower than the amount of people who actually attended, since people also paid at the door who were not on the Facebook attendee list.
“I think [Zumbathon is] a great way to not only be active but also show support for the people in the community that might be going through domestic violence and even just saying like ‘hey I’m here, I’m going to take a stand against it,’” Jenny Fletcher, a senior at UMaine, said.
Dustin Levesque, the leader of the Zumbathon, is a fifth-year music education student. He did show choir in high school, which is where he became interested in dancing. Slightly overweight leaving high school, Levesque got into shape through Zumba classes and obtained his certification and teaching license at the end of his sophomore year. Considering his reason for joining, he now finds it important for his students to know that his class is a safe zone where they won’t be judged.
Several community organizations made appearances at the Zumbathon, including Male Athletes Against Violence (MAAV), the UMaine Wellness Center and Tip Whip, a free taxi service for people who need emergency transport from dangerous situations.
MAAV has a longstanding commitment to ending violence against women. Founded in 2004 by Dr. Sandra Caron, a professor of family relations and human sexuality at UMaine, MAAV aims to change the conversation around domestic violence, “so that we can begin to understand that violence is very much a ‘man’s issue,’” according to the group’s website.
MAAV runs a new campaign against domestic violence each year. Their current campaign, “Man enough to walk a mile in her shoes,” features the group of male athletes in red stiletto high heels, which they often sport at campus events.
“We wanted to do something that the community really cared about,” Levesque said on the donations going to Spruce Run-Womancare Alliance. “They’re doing a lot and we just want to help build them up even more.”
Spruce Run-Womancare Alliance can be contacted at (207) 945-5102 for more information, services and advice.
Alan Bennett contributed to this report.