They say things in life happen for a reason, that there's a purpose for every event, it's our choice to decide what that reason may be and to look inside ourselves to try our best to create something good out a bad situation. In 1994 I was attacked and sexually assaulted by a man in a mask and to this day he has yet to be caught. As horrific as that event was, I was incredibly fortunate to have the love and care of my family to watch over me afterwards. It took a while, but I had to believe this happened to me for a reason and I decided I wasn't going to let that incident define my life, at least not in a negative way. It was because of that night so many years ago that I decided to start a non-profit organization for survivors of domestic and sexual violence. When I started this journey, I met with a lot of people to get advice, guidance and anything else they had to offer. The theme in every meeting when it came to fundraising was "show a crushing need." We all hear the statistics; domestic and sexual violence will touch one in five people in some way during their lifetime. Clearly, the need was there.
Once The Duffy House started to become a reality, I started thinking about the needs of the survivor. Yes, they need shelter, psychological help, legal assistance, etc. But I wanted to do something special for these women in addition. Something they would never, or could never, do for themselves. It was then I decided I wanted to do an annual "Day of Pampering." A day where these women could truly relax and be pampered. One day out of the year where people were actually waiting on THEM. However, when I sought support and funding for the event, I was met with a great deal of resistance. How can a manicure, pedicure, facial, new haircut be considered a "crushing need?" Is a true day of respite really a charity event? Is it really a need? Thankfully there are people and sponsors who believe and understand that it is a need, and saying "thank you" to these amazing people just doesn't seem like enough.
To pull off an event like this it truly takes a village and we had an expansive one spanning across the country from D.C. to San Francisco. We had volunteers providing products, food, supplies as well as experts in all fields donating their valuable time for our big day.
The minute I put the word out through my radio show that I needed assistance, I had listeners of Broadminded chomping at the bit to help. Talk about the kindness of strangers! I was absolutely blown away that so many people were willing to help a cause simply because they hear me on the radio every day.
In order for the women to fully relax and enjoy this day, we also make sure there are plenty of events and activities for their children. This is where my incomparable business partner, Michelle Gates, truly excels!
We had children ranging in age from 11 months to 18-years-old and, and thanks to Michelle, they had more than enough to entertain themselves. There were moon bounces, a "bear bus," video game rooms, and outdoor games; there was absolutely everything any kid could want or ask for. There was even a "mini spa" where volunteering Girl Scouts were applying mani/pedis with serious flare! We do this event for the moms, but the kids needs this day of respite as well. They've been put in a situation in their young lives that they never asked for, so when they come to the "Day of Pampering" it's as much for them as it is for their moms. And it's a day when they can really just be kids.
The fellowship hall of Burke United Methodist Church was turned into a spa with all the trimmings.
We had three mani/pedi stations, facial stations, two massage chairs, a Reiki Master, and a meditation room.
One woman told me she broke down in the room because she hadn't taken a minute to herself in the past three years since she fled her violent situation. As she was sitting in the Oasis room, in absolute solitude surrounded solely by her own thoughts, it was only then she was able to absorb everything that had happened to her and she simply broke down. A release she had not allowed herself to have because she needed to be strong for her children. She had been running since she fled with her two children and she was just surviving day by day. She had worked tirelessly and selflessly to ensure her kids had a safe roof over their heads, good food and any other kind of stability she could possibly provide. Her kids are doing well so it was time for her to take care of herself and the Relaxation Oasis has started her on her journey to a healing place.
While our spa was hopping, we also had a shuttle running the women back and forth to the W Salon in Burke. As they were on their way to the salon, for the most part the women sat in silence absorbed in their own thoughts, but when they came out, boy what a difference! They walked out of that salon with swagger! And the drive back to the church was anything but silent, they were chatty and happy and excited. Because of a simple change in hairstyle, and the unselfish generosity of the stylists who gave their time, these ladies now have enough confidence to conquer the world.
So, if by "crushing need" means those being helped end the day feeling fulfilled, stronger, happier, and above all now feel they can move forward with their lives, I think the people that volunteer on this day would tell you that, yes, without a doubt, the "Day of Pampering" is a crushing need. And to those who may still think a true day of respite isn't necessary, I encourage you to attend our 5th annual "Day of Pampering" next year to see what I, and the incredible volunteers, get to witness on this remarkable day.
Each and every year after this event, my heart is filled with so much gratitude for all the volunteers, sponsors, and family members who tirelessly give of themselves. They say it's better to give than to receive and that statement has never proven to be truer than during the annual Duffy "Day of Pampering."
"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." ~Maya Angelou