Strides 4 ORCC: running as a life-line

Executive Director sets challenge in support of gender-based violence prevention

Run Ottawa’s Ian Fraser runs everyday. For 50 years he has not gone more than two weeks without running. Running met Fraser’s core needs as a boy: it allowed him to get out of a very unsafe space, to be alone, to be totally free, and to have control over his body. Running helped Fraser survive a tough situation and gave him the skills to carry through his lifetime. He says running and stress relief are still very much connected, “not just the rough-day stress though, the big existential stuff. I can outrun my thoughts, I can outrun fear.”

Fraser has empathy from his own experience and knows how pervasive and unaddressed the root causes of gender-based violence, family violence, and intimate partner violence are. The costs are personal and social. They are spiritual, political, economical, and immeasurable. 

“It pains me to think that women aren’t safe, or wouldn’t feel safe, day or night going running or being out in open spaces, even today.”

In 2013, Fraser was approached by the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre (ORCC) through his former storefront, Cyclelogik, to host a spin-a-thon fundraiser. Once he heard about the mission he felt struck. He thought, “I totally get this!” and aligned with ORCC’s goals. 

“I learned more about how much violence harms our community and further marginalizes women and other marginalized folks whose energy and spirit we need participating more in community, not less! I learned how much trauma impacts the way that individuals feel safe to engage in their community. It felt good to be part of this incredible effort towards a shared challenge.”

This March, Fraser has pledged to run 10 kilometres per day for the ORCC and its survivors as a fundraiser for his Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend Charity Challenge team ‘Strides 4 ORCC’, leading up to the Ottawa 10K presented by Otto’s Ottawa on May 28.

“Not everyone wants to think about this highly stigmatized topic that creates profound harm through mental and physical violence. Sexual and gendered violence lives in so much silence, both on the victim’s part and culturally, that it is treated as a closed loop. This is never going to change if it continues this way. These issues need to come out of the shadows and be healed. Everyone needs to be in the conversation. It impacts all of us, whether we know it or not.”

Fraser wants to continue building up this grassroots organization that provides free counselling, accompaniment to court, police and hospital, as well as a crisis-line and chat/text support for survivors—services that are always in demand.

As the ORCC continues to evolve its services to better meet community needs, ORCC’s new Executive Director Candice Shaw wishes to thank all those who continue to signal their support for survivors and those who pledge to run and donate to Strides 4 ORCC. The ORCC team commits to running in solidarity with Fraser on International Women’s Day, March 8. 

“Violence is a result of systemic issues that we need to address through education and community advocacy”, Shaw shares, “Ian is adding an important element back into the work, which is community fundraising! We are all connected and there are webs of support in the city rallying funds and material, It’s very important. The pandemic has made glaringly clear the people currently facing the largest challenges occupy many intersections and have higher incidences of violence. Right now, ORCC is focusing on how we can show up for survivors, and how to meet them where they are.” 

“It’s an important activity for the community to look directly at these hard topics and pledge to do what we can in our own spheres of life,” Fraser reflects. “We all have the capacity to help in some way, my way is through this charity challenge. I picked a charity important to me and I set a goal that is a challenge.

All the recent events in downtown Ottawa—the occupation and the impacts of Covid— demonstrated to me how important it is that we participate in building the communities we want to be a part of. I implore folks to join my team, make a donation, or register for Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend and raise money for a charity of your choice.”

How can you support Strides 4 ORCC?

A single stride towards a goal can be the hardest. One stride at a time we can make progress on these challenges together.