Blustery weather could not keep almost 100 people from gathering at the Hegeler Carus Mansion to commemorate Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The annual Luminary of Hope event was held on October 25, 2010 and sponsored by the Zonta Club of LaSalle-Peru.
Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Kilbride, the evening’s keynote speaker, told the crowd that domestic violence is a problem he wrestles with all too often on the bench. “Children are particularly vulnerable as witnesses to and victims of domestic violence,” Kilbride told the crowd. He said that this subject causes him concern as a husband, father, and grandfather. Kilbride also told the crowd about his extensive record protecting crime victims, including a 2003 decision in which the court protected a 20 month old victim of sexual assault from an intrusive medical examination sought by her attacker.
Justices Mary McDade and Mary Kay O’Brien of the Third District Appellate Court were also among the featured speakers. Justice McDade reminded the crowd that children are always watching. Speaking from a child’s perspective, Justice McDade said, “When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you throw my grandfather to the floor, and I learned that the elderly are not to be respected.” Justice O’Brien, a member of the Zonta Club of Kankakee, told the crowd that community groups like Zonta play an important role in the fight against domestic violence.
Justices Kilbride, McDade, and O’Brien were presented with awards by the Zonta Club of LaSalle-Peru for their commitment to fairly interpreting the law, while protecting the rights of victims. Officer Adam Conness of the Peru Police Department, Officer Nick Bernal of the LaSalle Police Department, and the patrol division of the LaSalle County Sheriff’s Department were recognized for their work in assisting victims of domestic violence.
Judge Cynthia Raccuglia paid tribute to the late Judge William Banich, co-founder of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Family Violence Prevention Council. Banich and Raccuglia often said that the luminary, formerly sponsored by the FVPC, “was always held on the worst day of the year” in terms of the weather. Raccuglia said, “I believe he is here with us tonight.”
Margaret Morrison, Executive Director of ADV&SAS and a member of the Zonta Club of Streator, accepted an award for her work on behalf of survivors of domestic violence. The Zonta Club of LaSalle-Peru collected over five hundred dollars and eight shopping carts full of household products last weekend at Hy-Vee and Jewel. Young women from St. Bede Academy also donated buckets filled with cleaning supplies. These items will be given to individuals leaving the shelter, starting new lives free from abuse.
Other guests at the Luminary of Hope included LaSalle County Board members Sandi Billard and LouAnne Carretto, LaSalle Mayor Jeff Grove, LaSalle County Sheriff Tom Templeton, and retired Illinois Supreme Court Justice Tobias Berry.
Those on hand found the ceremony both moving and informative. Dr. Eric Anderson of LaSalle said, “It was a great ceremony.” “The location of this year’s luminary was particularly fitting, especially given the strength of the women of the Hegeler and Carus families,” said Ann Maxwell-Weisbrod, President of the Zonta Club of LaSalle-Peru.
Master of ceremonies Melissa Olivero told the crowd that service providers for victims have experienced an increased demand at the same time as funding for services has decreased. She asked the crowd to pledge to challenge false assumptions about domestic violence, to use language that promotes hope instead of fear, to model healthy relationships, and to lead by example. Olivero closed by telling the crowd that, “Domestic violence is not a man problem or a woman problem, it is a community problem.” ■