By Lisa E. Crowley
BROCKTON—Brockton resident Irma Walat cruised past the finish line and talked to old friends and some new ones as she helped bring more awareness to domestic violence during the Family and Community Resource’s “Hearts and Hands for Hope” 5K run/walk last Saturday.
At 71, Walat (Pictured, second photo) has been running road races without fear for 17 years after she escaped the fists and words of her abusive and alcoholic husband—a man whom she married when she was 18, spent decades with raising two children and did not try to leave until she was 54.
“My life is very good and happy, now,” said Walat, a well-known and much-loved member of the Colonial Road Runners, an association of runners from across Massachusetts who Walat joined in 1978 when she began running to relieve the stress in her marriage and home life.
Walat said when she was 54 their relationship—marred by years of brawls and booze—took a malevolent turn for the worse and she began to fear for her life.
“I was young, I was naïve,” Walat said. “There was a lot of drinking…it was a very bad marriage,” she said.
As luck would have it, as she sought help to leave, a miracle of sorts happened.
“He got sick,” Walat said. “He got lung cancer and died—thank god,” she said laughing heartily as she told her story.
Her adult children, Walat said, struggle with alcohol and the affects of years of abuse, but since the husband died, the gut-wrenching anxiety and fear the family lived with has disappeared.
“Some people might think that is cruel,” Walat said of her delight over his death, “but the best thing that could have happened was that he died. You know what I mean if you’ve been through it.”
Walat joined about 100 runners, walkers and volunteers for Family and Community Resource’s “Hearts and Hands for Hope” run and walk.
The event took participants from the Raymond Elementary School to D.W. Field Park and back. Fourteen vendors sponsored the event and gave away free prizes and information. An after-event party was held at Mickey Malone's.
Some participants like Michael Matt, 13, and Asa Habb, 14, best friends from Providence, R.I. joined the run to continue their weekend training regimens for their cross-country teams and raise money for a good cause. (Pictured, top photo)
“We’re part of Peg’s Posse,” said Andy Matt, Michael’s father who grew up in Sharon and entered the boys as part of a group from Keller Williams Realty led by Peg Carbone, a volunteer at food pantries in Brockton and Stoughton.
Marshfield resident Debra Bloom was running her first 5K road race, having been recruited by Brian Quinn, an Easton resident who was there to support organizers.
Scituate Police officer Ted Coyle—who won the 5K road race—said he wanted to support Family and Community Resources because as one of two officers in Scituate who handle domestic violence issues with the Plymouth County District Attorney’s Office, he knows how difficult it can be to raise awareness so victims will get help. (Pictured, right)
“No town is immune to it. We have our share. We just don’t get the volume Brockton has,” Coyle said.
Coyle said law enforcement officials appreciate the people who volunteer with domestic violence programs such as Family and Community Resources, Jane Doe in Boston and the other services available to victims of domestic violence.
"We wouldn't be as far as we are without the volunteers," Coyle said.
Karen Slaby, director of marketing for Family and Community Resources, said the event was a great time and she thanked everyone involved.
"We get so much help and support from the community," Slaby said.
After years of suffering, Walat said she understands how difficult it might be for someone to leave an abusive and violent relationship, but that pain can lead to a life that is much better than the pain of an abusive relationship.
“Reach out. Get help,” Walat said.