With 5 million Yards for Yeardley, Sweet Briar athletes raise awareness about importance of healthy relationships

Athletes at Sweet Briar House
Sweet Briar athletes in front of Sweet Briar House just weeks before the challenge

In 2010, UVa lacrosse player Yeardley Love was killed in an act of domestic violence. The OneLove Foundation was created later that year in Love’s honor; its purpose to educate young people about healthy — and unhealthy — relationships. One campaign the foundation supports is Yards for Yeardley, a community awareness campaign that encourages participants to run, bike, walk, swim or do some other form of activity to both honor Love and to raise awareness about healthy relationships.

The campaign has particular importance to Sweet Briar’s Director of Athletic Training Devon Serrano, who is just about Love’s age and had heard the story of her murder while in college.

“As a young woman, I have my own #MeToo story, and Yeardley’s story always came to mind whenever I heard about #MeToo,” she says.

Serrano is also a member of the Sweet Briar Title IX Team, which received training through the OneLove Foundation’s Escalation Workshop in December. She views her role on the Title IX team as an honor and a way to have a lasting impact on the College’s student-athletes. “I wanted to help break the stigma that ‘it can’t happen to me,’” she says. “Sweet Briar is a sisterhood. It is our responsibility to care for one another, empower one another and protect one another.”

In early January, Serrano challenged the College’s athletes to participate in the Yards for Yeardley campaign and to complete 1 million yards over the course of the semester. All athletes, regardless of their playing status, were encouraged to participate — and they did. They reached their goal before the month was even over. Serrano was so inspired by their commitment to the cause that she challenged them to two new goals: complete 1 million yards for every month of the semester, called the #monthlymillion, and get 100 percent student-athlete participation.

Instagram post Devon Serrano
Devon Serrano announced the good news on Instagram with a photo of her new puppy, Yeardley.

On May 3, the eighth anniversary of Yeardley’s death, the College’s athletes had met both goals. Every single athlete participated, completing 5.5 million yards in cardio workouts, walks, runs, laps and rehabilitation.

“At Sweet Briar, we work every day to empower young women to be fierce, to be the best they can be and to always push themselves,” Serrano says. “Through this campaign, I saw student-athletes grow as athletes and young women. They pushed themselves that last tenth of a mile. Some came face to face with past experiences and started the amazing journey of taking care of their mental health. What originally started out as a physical challenge turned into an opportunity for education and transformation.”

Love’s legacy lives on at Sweet Briar in other ways, too. “This week, I am adopting a puppy in the hopes of training her to be a therapy dog in the clinic,” Serrano says. “Her name is Yeardley.”

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