It was a perfect evening as our Saints family gathered in solidarity on the Hamilton Stadium track to support an organization that “helps save and rebuild lives and creates safer communities.” The Center for Empowerment and Education in Danbury, Connecticut, has been a safe haven for victims of domestic and sexual violence since 1975, and Canterbury students were eager to rally around this vital cause.
The fundraising initiative, SafeWalk, was organized by Women of Canterbury on a night when the student club also held its annual Lock-In event to build camaraderie and connections among female-identifying students and faculty. The club’s Co-Presidents, Elsa Copeland ’23 and Madeline Diglio ’23, were excited about combining the two events.
“This is something we are both passionate about,” Maddie said. “We have been given this amazing privilege to become leaders and set an example not only for this club but also for the School. Now that we have the SafeWalk in conjunction with the Lock-In, it opens an opportunity for male-identifying students and faculty and even family members to show their support.”
The Canterbury community really came through, with 160-plus participants joining the walk. “We both put in so much work and were happy with the outcome,” Maddie shared. “It was so impactful. A lot of people were saying how good it felt to contribute to something like this.”
And the SafeWalk wasn’t just for walking. The laps around the track each featured different activities to keep it interesting and engaging, with the evening’s emcees, Matthew Lappin ’23 and Godson Ajoku ’23, calling out instructions and interacting with the crowd. “Everyone who signed in received a glowstick, and when we turned the lights off, it looked like it was just glowing necklaces out there,” Elsa said. “We walked backward, locked arms, formed conga lines, did sprints—those who could, anyway. The last lap was a game of tag. It was a lot of fun.”
Prior to heading down to the track, the girls kicked off the Women of Canterbury Lock-In with introductions and getting-to-know-you icebreakers that included questions such as “If you could have a new skill, what would it be?”, “What is your comfort show?”, and “What is something that no one knows about you?” Student attendees then enjoyed dinner and conversation and were joined by faculty and staff, including Head of School Rachel Stone P ’23, ’24; Director of Health Services Colleen Cook, R.N. ’02; and English Teacher and Coordinator of DEIJ Programs Olivia Pena.
After they returned from the SafeWalk to continue the Lock-In, Maddie led the tired but happy group in meditation and quiet reflection. They then watched a movie—Legally Blonde—and participated in activity stations and the evening’s most inspiring exercise, the affirmations.
“We did a lot of affirmations. You just write a note to a friend or someone who needs to hear something from you; things you wouldn’t necessarily say to their face that you would love for them to know,” Maddie said. “Some people were so happy to get them; they hung them up on their dorm wall.”
While the planning was stressful at times, it was well worth it for Maddie and Elsa. “I saw how supportive people are and how they can rise to the occasion,” said Elsa. “It wasn’t just Women of Canterbury members donating to and helping with the SafeWalk. The entire group stayed afterward, asking, ‘What else can we do?’ and thanking us for organizing it. That was definitely inspirational for us to keep planning future events like this.”