‘Shine A Light’ goes national

BRISTOL — It was two years ago that Bristol-based artist Stephanie Larsen came up with an idea for a “Shine A Light” fundraiser to enlighten the Addison County community about domestic violence and sexual abuse. Local artists decorated lamps that were auctioned off to generate money for abuse-awareness programs.
Now Larsen and her friend and business partner, Melissa Deas, are looking to shine that light on causes throughout the country, and eventually the world. They announced this month that they have spent the past year developing an A to Z guide on how nonprofits can implement a “Shine A Light” campaign for virtually any philanthropic cause.
“The problem is, this type of abuse happens everywhere,” said Deas, former coordinator of the Addison County Council Against Domestic and Sexual Violence (ACCADSV) who serves as the Addison County site coordinator for Domestic Violence Solutions, a battering intervention program.
“We want to say, as a society, we will not accept this kind of violence,” added Larsen, herself a victim of domestic abuse.
So the two women decided to collaborate on a business venture to help nonprofits replicate the two successful Shine A Light efforts in Addison County. The first of those efforts saw more than a dozen area artists donate their talents to decorating a lamp each. These unique lamps were put on display and then auctioned off to generate some cash for the ACCADSV.
The Shine A Light package is a 32-page document that includes everything an organization needs to stage a fundraising event, according to Deas. An index of materials includes such things as an artist’s invitation and reminder, an ad request for lamps, bidding forms, day-of-event checklist, thank-you letters and a proposed timeline. With help, Deas and Larsen have established a website for their venture — shinealightvision.com. A video about the plan can be seen online at vimeo.com/91978393.
The copyrighted Vision package costs $300 and includes consulting services from Larsen and Deas. The duo is also trying to raise $20,000 to further solidify the foundation of the new business.
“This is for the benefit of all nonprofits that work to stop inhumane violence against our people,” Larsen states in the video, which features a heartbeat sound in the background. “The timing is actually perfect, because so many vast budget cuts are whittling away all of our (nonprofit) organizations’ skeletal staffs.”
Deas said the need to raise awareness about abusive behavior is heightened by messages that youth are receiving through their televisions, music devices and other sources.
“We know that our culture promotes violence in many ways,” Deas said. “One only has to look at our popular television, think about the music that teens are listening to, read a newspaper, look at the video games that our children are playing, and it brings out the awareness that our children are growing up with very violent messages. Not only that, it’s normalizing it for them.”
The Give Way to Freedom group recently acquired Larsen and Deas’ Vision material to hold a Shine A Light on a Human Trafficking event at the Red Square nightclub in Burlington. It was a very successful event that boasted some stunning lamps, some of which garnered bids of around $150, according to Larsen.
Larsen and Deas will attend the National Sexual Assault Conference in Pittsburgh in August. That conference will also feature vendors of material on the subject.
The partners want the organizations that purchase their product to track who acquires the fundraiser lamps. That’s because at some point in the future, owners of those lamps nationwide will be asked to turn them on at the same time to symbolically “shine a light” on abusive behavior of all kinds, whether it be bullying, sex trafficking, domestic assault or elder abuse.
For Larsen, seeing the “Shine A Light” campaign go national — and potentially international — is the realization of a vision. She actually imagined the event in her sleep several years ago.
“This all began with a dream, literally, and now is coming to fruition,” she said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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