OSWEGO — The Oswego State women’s ice hockey team was unable to compete this year but spent their final month on campus rallying around a cause more significant than any victory on the ice.
They were one of several Lakers athletics programs that took an active role in Oswego State’s sixth annual Yards For Yeardley campaign to raise awareness for relationship violence and promote avenues to get help for self and others in the hope of preventing domestic tragedies.
The campaign is a nationwide effort started by the One Love Foundation, an organization formed to educate and empower young people on signs of an unhealthy relationship to honor the memory of Yeardley Love, a women’s lacrosse player from the University of Virginia who was killed by her ex-boyfriend from the men’s program just before graduation in 2010.
“I really think the campaign has had an impact on us all,” said Aislinn McAleer, a senior captain for the Oswego women’s ice hockey team. “I remember participating in my first one and when I started to learn more it was eye-opening because of how often events like this do happen. One of the main takeaways I have is how to see the warning signs for dating violence and not only how I can help myself in those situations but also my friends.”
Participants in the overall initiative were encouraged to sign up in advance to pledge an intended total to donate to victims of domestic violence per yard completed between April 3-May 3.
They were then asked to walk, run, jog, bike, or accumulate yards in any creative way they could think of, report their totals, and post activities to social media with the hashtag “Yards For Yeardley,” to promote the campaign.
The Title IX office at Oswego State, managed by Lisa Evaneski, along with the ‘It’s On Oz,’ prevention campaign and social media team work to organize the campaign and coinciding educational events on campus each year, and then reach out to various student organizations and programs to contribute.
Beta Alpha Sci helps count and verify all the submissions from Oswego State participants while several athletic teams, sororities, fraternities, and off-campus community groups take part to boost the yardage total and spread the word.
Philomena Teggart, also a senior captain for the women’s ice hockey team, said that their group established a goal for each player to walk a minimum of two miles per day and the team ended up contributing around 1.6 million yards to Oswego’s grand total.
The Oswego State women’s hockey captains met with Evaneski earlier this spring to discuss ways they could help promote the virtual event, continuing their annual involvement, and were joined by the field hockey and swimming and diving programs as highly active participants.
“It wasn’t as much about the competition among teams but more the collaboration between teams,” said Mark Digby, the Oswego women’s hockey coach. “The field hockey team made their posts and that helped our team feel inspired, supported, and then it becomes about more than our team.”
Oswego State topped 21 million yards overall for the second straight year and had its largest group of contributors to date with alumni and remote learners taking part around the world, including a women’s hockey player posting updates between her online classes in Denmark.
Oswego athletes reached their share of that lofty number by walking, running, roller-blading, and some by walking their dogs. Teggart was one of multiple players who tracked their totals on a watch and self-reported at the end of each day. She and several teammates also posted to social media after each activity and educated their followers on the campaign when questions arose.
Oswego field hockey coach Heather Moore challenged her unit to run 30 miles each over the course of the month to do their respective parts. Evaneski said that she would occasionally try to push each of the three leading teams by speaking to the success of the others for some extra, light-hearted motivation.
“As a team we are always ready to compete and win, that is the inner athletes in us wanting to always be the best,” Teggart said. “At the end of the day we would love to have the highest numbers among all the teams, but the bigger picture is raising awareness for the campaign. The friendly competition definitely pushed us that little extra bit though.”
Evaneski helped launch the event at Oswego in 2016 after the suggestion from an intern in the Title IX office at the time, Amanda Lieberman Kenney, a 2016 graduate who was also a virtual intern for the One Love Foundation.
Oswego became the first SUNY institution to launch their own sector of the Yards For Yeardley campaign and the first to surpass one million yards accumulated in a single day.
The event is typically held on one day in late April with a route mapped across campus that features several stops to review statistics and other informative material regarding domestic violence and warning signs of an unhealthy relationship. This was the second straight year in which the event switched to a virtual format due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Like we do with everything, we went out to our whole community,” Evaneski said. “We invited (residential) halls, athletic teams, student organizations, fraternity and sorority organizations, anyone who would join us, even community members. We had the (district attorney) office, the Zonta Club, just so many people showed up for that first year.”
In addition to Yeardley Love, Oswego State also walks to honor the memory of other dating violence victims lost in tragic incidents.
For more information on other workshops and events conducted on campus, visit the Oswego State Title IX website (www.oswego.edu/title-ix) or seek out “It’s On Oz,” on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.