Emory & Henry College may be one of the latest schools to create a chapter of Help Save the Next Girl.
According to Gil Harrington of Roanoke, there are 94 chapters of the organization that have been formed since she and her husband, Dan Harrington, suffered the loss of their daughter Morgan Dana Harrington. Morgan was abducted and murdered outside a concert in Charlottesville in 2009.
The high-profile case reached national attention in the media during a time when there were rising concerns throughout the country about sexual assaults and other crimes on college campuses.
The national non-profit organization, created in honor of their daughter, seeks to sensitize young women and girls to predatory danger.
Help Save the Next Girl raises awareness in communities -- particularly on college campuses -- to spread safety information and prevent future crimes against young women.
“The organization helps people have conversations about bystander intervention, safety and looking out for one another,” said Todd Stanley, director of counseling services for the Powell Resource Center at Emory & Henry College. Stanley, a native of Roanoke, was instrumental in bringing the program to campus.
“I know it will be a powerful message,” he said.
“We can help prevent these crimes by maintaining vigilance and personal awareness. As a community we must know our neighbors and be responsible for one another. This is an important message for all of us and not just for women. It’s a universal message for everyone.”
The organization partners with elementary, middle and high schools, faith-based groups, and law enforcement agencies. The nearest Southwest Virginia chapter is at Grayson County High School in Independence. Some international chapters are located in Zambia, Africa and Canada.
Gil and Jane Lillian Vance, president and vice president of the Help Save the Next Girl organization, will present a talk at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 22, in the Kennedy-Reedy Theatre in the McGlothlin Center for the Arts on campus. The event is free and open to the public.
“I’m an informal speaker. I don’t have a canned speech,” said the mother, who will tell the story of her daughter and read excerpts from “Morgan Harrington Murdered and Dead for Good: A Mother’s Quest to Find a Serial Killer and Healing,” a book she co-authored with Vance, one of Morgan’s professors at Virginia Tech, where Morgan was a student.
“Though I have taught thousands of students, Morgan was special,” wrote Vance in an email. “In retrospect, I think in part what I was seeing is that she was the daughter of a doctor and a nurse, people of generous service and compassion. When we lost Morgan, we lost a young woman who would have been a healer in her own way — through teaching. I was determined to help her goodness not be lost.”
Morgan and her professor shared a love for art.
On Tuesday, Sept. 24, the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine in Roanoke, where Morgan’s father Dan Harrington serves as vice dean, will open the large painting retrospective, “Jane Lillian Vance: The First Sixty Years,” on exhibit until mid-December.
“I’m especially proud that my 115 paintings will join a permanent installation of Morgan’s paintings there, and that my show will be with her work this Oct. 17, on the 10th anniversary of her murder. She would like that we were still together, a decade later,” said Vance.
The event at Emory & Henry College is sponsored by E&H CARES, an on-campus advocacy group that seeks to strengthen services for survivors of stalking, dating or domestic violence, and sexual assault; improves offender accountability; and promotes comprehensive prevention strategies within the campus community.
E&H CARES, which is an acronym for "Emory & Henry Campus Advocacy, Resources, and Education for Safety" is working with Help Save the Next Girl to form a chapter on campus.
"Their mission is very similar to that of E&H CARES, which works to prevent gender-based violence and increase awareness of danger,” said Mary Ellis Rice, project coordinator for the campus organization.
“Here at Emory & Henry, we’re in an enclosed bubble, but it’s so important to be aware of how we can protect each other and how we can be accountable for the safety of those within the community.
“I hope Emory & Henry students will walk away from this event with a sense of community -- knowing that we all live in this place. And, part of living in this Emory & Henry family requires us to keep each other safe and watch out for our safety.”
Gil said she and her husband formed the organization as a way to help prevent other families from experiencing the kind of agony they endured after their daughter was killed.
“As a mother of a murdered girl and being the face of bereavement, I believe predatory danger is an issue of our times -- locally, nationally and globally.
“Young people think they have a Teflon covering and nothing bad can ever happen. But, it does,” said the mother.
“I usually sign off on talks by saying, “Please know your neighbors, watch out for everyone, and participate in your community because through that participation you can help save the next girl.”
Learn more about Help Save the Next Girl by visiting www.helpsavethenextgirl.com.
For more information on the event at Emory & Henry College, call 276-944-6333.