After a decade, an annual walk and 5K run that raises awareness and money to combat sexual violence in the Burlington, Vermont area is coming to a conclusion.
Laura's March is named for Laura Winterbottom, a 31-year-old children's art teacher and avid hiker who was kidnapped, raped, and murdered by a total stranger in downtown Burlington in 2005.
"I think about Laura all the time," Laura's dad, Ned Winterbottom, told necn Friday. "It's as if somebody tore your arm off your shoulder. It would hurt a hell of a lot. And after a while you'd learn to cope without your arm. But it would still be gone. And you'd be aware it's gone."
Winterbottom's killer, Gerald Montgomery, is now serving a more than 40-year prison sentence.
Ned Winterbottom wants Vermonters to remember the upbeat, community-minded daughter he adored.
Since Laura's death, her family turned grief into action. The Winterbottoms manage a foundation, called the Laura Kate Winterbottom Memorial Fund, and organize an annual walk called Laura's March. The march has raised tens of thousands of dollars for Burlington-area non-profits.
The tenth Laura's March is this weekend, and it will be the final one as the city has known it, Winterbottom said.
"The foundation is going to still stay in existence," he noted. "The mission's not going to change. We're still going to be here, we're just not going to be in the same venue."
Ned Winterbottom said his family will soon start charting new ways to back kids' education causes and efforts to combat sexual violence and support survivors.
The Burlington non-profit HOPE Works, which aims to end sexual violence through healing, outreach, prevention and empowerment, used its grants from the Laura Kate Winterbottom Memorial Fund to enhance clinical therapy services for survivors.
"Many of our programs have grown tremendously as a result of being a part of this amazing community event," Cathleen Barkley, the executive director of HOPE Works, said of Laura's March.
Laura's March has also benefited other area non-profits, including the Pride Center of Vermont, which works to advance the health, safety, and community of LGBTQ Vermonters.
"Sexual violence is often such an invisible and pervasive problem," said Julia Berberan, the anti-violence coordinator at SafeSpace, a division of the Pride Center of Vermont. "Doing marches like Laura's March definitely helps bring more awareness."
The final Laura's March steps off at 10 a.m. Saturday from Burlington's Oakledge Park. Registration is at 9 a.m., and is open to anyone who wants to speak up against sexual violence, Ned Winterbottom said.