BEACON — To kick off Domestic Violence Awareness Month, schoolteacher Tara Simmons had been running from Albany to her native Beacon this weekend in a fundraiser for Grace Smith House.
The eighth-grade math teacher at White Plains Highlands Middle School seeks to use the run to spread awareness not only of Grace Smith House but of human rights.
“I feel like [God] put on my heart to spread awareness about human rights,” she said. “When everything got shut down, I knew that [Grace Smith House] wouldn’t have their fundraisers, so I want to somehow give back again.”
As a former varsity track athlete, Simmons had trained to run for a marathon that was cancelled in April, but shifted her focus to this 100-mile run after the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S. She trained 25 weeks for this run, with the eventual goal of being able to run from Death Valley, California to her hometown.
The nonprofit organization provides both residential and non-residential services for families affected by domestic abuse. Simmons sought help from the organization after surviving an abusive relationship with the father of her children.
“When I was going through the court system, and trying to get myself in a better situation, they were very helpful,” she said. “They just really helped me get started to get back on my feet.”
Simmons has an enlightened perspective on her past circumstances. She does not define herself as a victim of domestic violence.
“I don’t like being called a label,” she said. “I don’t think anyone should be label because I believe it lessens us.”
This perspective has allowed her to forgive her ex, and to take responsibility for the relationship’s demise. “Unless we choose to take the responsibility, there will be no change,” she said.
Spirituality has been a force for Simmons in her life’s journey.
“I wake up every day and I say, where would you have me go?” she said. “Who should you have me see, what would you have me do and what would you have me say?”
Simmons’ three children have also grounded her, and she describes them as her “teachers” in an email.
“They inspire me to be a better human,” she said. “I’m so grateful for them. I want them to know they are loved and protected at all times to be them.”