Updated: Jan. 22, 2019 at 4:28 p.m.
The GW College Democrats are switching the beneficiary of the group’s February gala to focus on domestic violence awareness and gun violence prevention.
The College Democrats will now raise money during its annual gala for My Sister’s Place, a D.C.-based nonprofit that supports survivors of domestic violence, instead of Planned Parenthood. Student leaders said that because domestic abuse most often occurs in homes that have guns, the change will engage freshmen who made gun and domestic violence prevention a top priority after the March for Our Lives took off while they were seniors in high school.
Alex Beynon, the vice president of membership for College Democrats, said that while deciding the organization’s new beneficiary, members of College Democrats referenced 2018 data from Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit that advocates for gun control, which found that domestic violence rises by 500 percent when a home has a gun.
“We wanted to pursue an additional charitable cause that would connect with many of our members, particularly the freshmen who were seniors in high school during the Parkland shooting,” he said.
Ophir Cohen-Simayof, the vice president of development for College Democrats, said that unlike past galas, the group will ask attendees to donate instead of requiring tickets. Cohen-Simayof said she hopes to raise about $1,000 for the nonprofit.
College Democrats raised nearly $2,000 for Planned Parenthood during last year’s gala, she said. Attendees were required to pay a $25 entrance fee to attend the gala for the past two years.
“They work with the broader community and they try to reach out to other parts of the community,” she said. “My Sister’s Place was the most uplifting and effective place that we could donate to, and I think that that’s all we can ask for.”
She said College Democrats will instead host a separate fundraiser for Planned Parenthood during Women’s History Month in March, which could include an auction sale for College Democrats merchandise.
Cohen-Simayof said College Democrats wants to focus on aiding individuals affected by domestic violence because organizations often only focus on preventing violent acts before they happen.
“We really want to raise that awareness, and we really want to bring hope,” she said.
Bridget Anzano, the president of College Democrats, said the organization decided to change the beneficiary of the gala because the Class of 2022 was still in high school when a gunman walked into Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., killing 17 people. She said the cause heightened interest among freshmen involved with College Democrats.
“So much of the grassroots organization that came after Parkland was at the high school level,” she said. “I think that across our freshman members, we’ve seen a lot of interest and passion towards working for this cause, so we thought that we might as well dedicate one of the biggest things we’ll do all year to it.”
Anzano said College Democrats will promote the gala using its social media handles and posters around campus.
College Democrats named its 2016 gala the “#PinkOut Gala” in support of women’s reproductive rights. This year, Anzano said they will name the event the “Hope and Action Gala” because of the organization’s mission to “empower” those affected by domestic violence.
“My Sister’s Place, it’s really aimed at gun violence awareness and how you can still have hope after experiencing gun violence,” Anzano said. “We’re trying to have it be, while it is gun violence, sort of uplifting.”
This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that Alex Beynon is the College Democrats’ vice president of community service. He is the vice president of membership. We regret this error.