OPRF students raise money to fight domestic violence

Members of the school's Business Club, inspired by survivor Brenda Tracy, raised $400 for Sarah's Inn

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By Michael Romain

Staff Reporter

A group of students at Oak Park and River Forest High School were so inspired by a recent assembly speaker that they decided to raise money for a local nonprofit that helps victims of domestic violence.  

In 1998, when she was 24, Brenda Tracy was raped while unconscious by four men in Oregon. Three of the men were football players — two of them for Oregon State University, whose head coach at the time, Mike Riley, gave the suspected athletes a one-game suspension. 

Prosecutors declined to press charges. Riley told the media that the players had made "a bad choice," according to ESPN. His words incensed Tracy, who spoke publicly about her attack 16 years after the incident. When Riley, then the head coach at the University of Nebraska, heard Tracy's story, he called her to apologize and asked her to share her truth to his Nebraska football players. 

The offer would eventually turn into Tracy's Set The Expectation campaign — a national initiative that involves "combating sexual and physical violence through education and direct engagement with coaches, young men, and boys in high school and collegiate athletic programs," according to the campaign's website. 

In April, Tracy was at OPRF to share her survival story with students. Her testimony left a lasting impact on members of the school's Business Club. 

"During the assembly, Tracy spoke to a group of non-binary genders all separately and she was very moving," said Business Club member Sam Pecenka. "Will Farren (another club member) got the idea to use t-shirts for fundraising. He told Tracy about it and she loved it." 

Business Club members designed, purchased and sold the t-shirts, which are based on Tracy's Set the Expectation campaign and her idea that 90 percent of people who don't commit acts of sexual assault must do more to hold the 10 percent of those who do accountable. On the bottom of one of the t-shirts reads the slogan: "I am the 90 percent." 

In a joint statement, members of the Business Club said that they took the $400 in proceeds from the t-shirt sells and gave them to Sarah's Inn, an organization based in Oak Park that "provides comprehensive resources for families affected by domestic violence," according to their website. 

"We thank the entire Sarah's Inn organization for being the local superheroes that help fight these horribly prevalent atrocities and hope in some way or another we are able to help," the Business Club members said. 

CONTACT: michael@oakpark.com 

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