Ponte Vedra student organizes second annual event benefitting survivors of domestic violence

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Listening to a woman’s harrowing story of domestic violence can be difficult and heartbreaking, but is also, oftentimes, inspiring.

That was the case for Ponte Vedra High School (PVHS) student Harrison Snowden, who decided it wasn’t enough to just listen and sympathize.

For the second year in a row, Snowden, now a senior at PVHS, is organizing a fundraiser to benefit the Hubbard House and the Betty Griffin Center, both of which are Jacksonville area organizations that provide services to survivors of domestic and/or sexual abuse. The event, “Teens Take a Stand,” will be held at 7 p.m., Feb. 17 at Ponte Vedra High School.  

The benefit concert will feature a variety of acts, including performers from the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts and Ponte Vedra High School, a classical music ensemble with a professional clarinetist, a comedian, a jazz band and more.

Snowden said he devised the event concept after his parents returned from a trip visiting his sister at college. They raved about a benefit they attended and how much they enjoyed the variety show aspect of it. His initial benefit last year ended up raising more than $10,000 for the overall cause.

“One of the main things we tried to emphasize is although it was held at Ponte Vedra, we really wanted it structured to be more of a community concert,” Snowden said. “We had performers from Nease and Douglas Anderson and Ponte Vedra, and professional performers who weren’t even in school. We really were aiming for a community event.”

There will also be a silent auction featuring items such as a football signed by New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, a Masters flag signed by PGA Tour star and 2015 Masters champion Jordan Spieth and four tickets to a Jaguars home game that attendees can bid on. Last year’s event featured about 25 auction items and drew around 300 attendees, but Snowden is aiming for around 400 to 500 this year.

His message has already garnered support from his peers. When he spearheaded last year’s event, he had three other classmates assist him. This year, he has a planning committee team and a school club of 33 students who have also gotten involved. Half of those in the club are boys, which Snowden thinks is also important.

“I wanted to do something, especially as a boy, honestly, because it’s often thought of as a women’s issue,” Snowden said.

Snowden became interested in helping the Hubbard House and Betty Griffin Center his freshman year when a volunteer from the Betty Griffin Center came to speak to Snowden’s class about his experiences working with the nonprofit. Snowden and a friend later raised money for the Hubbard House and Betty Griffin Center through a bake sale, and he was invited to the Barbara Anne Campbell Memorial Breakfast at the Hubbard House. Hearing personal stories of domestic abuse from survivors during the breakfast made Snowden want to do more, and to encourage males and teens to do more as well.

“I remember there were three stories that I heard, and one was a video that gave the story of Barbara Ann Campbell,” Snowden said. “I remember hearing her and the two speakers who actually lived through it, and noticed it was almost entirely women in the audience. The combination of being moved by their stories and recognizing that there aren’t many men involved in this issue made me want to get more involved.”

At this year’s “Teens Take a Stand,” a survivor from the Betty Griffin Center will be on hand to share her personal story of abuse, and, Snowden said, hopefully impact more teens.

“I think that with teenagers, it’s not a comfortable thing to talk about,” Snowden said. “But I think the bigger issue is that if it doesn’t directly pertain to them, and this is true of most social issues, I think people can be comfortable being complacent.”

Snowden plans to go to college after graduating and is still deciding where he’ll attend, but he doesn’t expect to give up educating other young people about domestic violence. He said he’s been looking at colleges that have organizations directed at ending dating violence and domestic abuse.

“Especially in adolescent relationships, not enough people are aware of what constitutes dating violence,” Snowden said. “You don’t have to have a job in the service sector to be involved in community service. It’s definitely something that I hope to continue to work on.”

But for the moment, Snowden will just be happy with a good turnout Feb. 17, and to help others have the opportunity to get involved with raising awareness about domestic abuse.

“We really do have a lineup of awesome performers and great silent auction items, so we’re really looking for that audience,” he said.

Tickets will be available at the door or by email at pvhsttas@gmail.com. The cost is $15 for adults and $10 for students. More information can be found on the “Teens Take A Stand” Facebook page.

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