Sharing Jana's story and the mission
By DAWNE LEIKER
A national capital campaign to raise resources and awareness about domestic and dating violence will be launched during an Empty Place at the Table fundraising event Oct. 13.
The event, which takes place at Robbins Center on the Fort Hays State University campus, will feature Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who will share remarks about the state's role in domestic violence issues.
Organized by friends and family of slain University of Kansas student and Hays native Jana Mackey, who police believe was killed as a result of domestic violence in 2008, the event is intended to raise funds toward creation of an organization to address domestic and dating violence issues.
Mackey was well-known throughout Kansas for her advocacy for women. As a young adult, she served as a sexual assault and domestic violence advocate and lobbyist on women's issues.
Since her death, her mother and stepfather, Christie and Curt Brungardt, Hays, along with dozens of other family members and supporters have created Jana's Campaign Inc., with the mission of bringing awareness to issues surrounding domestic violence. Promoting educational and prevention issues at the state, national and international level, the organization has expanded its efforts into raising funds in the effort to build programs and hire staff members.
"The purpose was to use Jana's story to reduce domestic violence," said Curt Brungardt. "We believe in the power of the story, and that in some way we want Jana's life and her death to reduce violence against women."
Empty Place at the Table is a national organization created to raise awareness of domestic and dating violence. The symbolism of an empty place bears significance, Christie Brungardt said.
"It signifies, whether it's a domestic violence fatality that leaves an empty place at the table or victims of domestic and dating violence that withdraw from society because of circumstances, they also leave an empty place at the table," she said. "So every table will have one empty place the night of the event."
Raising awareness of the effects of domestic and dating violence is central to the Brungardts' mission.
"We want people to recognize that this is a community issue that we all need to talk about," Curt Brungardt said. "Research shows that one in every four women in America at some time in their life will be physically affected by domestic violence.
"Clearly, it's a neighborhood issue in every neighborhood in this country."
Other activities scheduled for the fundraising event include a dinner, auction and live music by Luke Johnson and Brad Dawson.
Tickets and more information about the Empty Place at the Table event are available at www.janascampaign.org or on Facebook by searching Jana's Campaign.