The United Way of South Central Oklahoma officially began its next campaign at its annual kick-off event at the Hilton Garden Inn Thursday.
This year, the organization has set a goal of $850,000, the same goal they surpassed last year by raising $937,799 with the theme “Every Dollar Counts.” Drive chair Haley Coppedge was in charge of choosing this year’s theme, “The Power of U.”
“A big thing that stood out to me is how it takes everyone, every donor, every little thing to serve the people,” Coppedge said. “Whether they’re donating their time or their money or their hearts.”
This year’s kick-off was led by two people with close ties to United Way agencies, Stacy Rose, a victim’s advocate at the Family Shelter of Southern Oklahoma, and Callie Tynes, a student at Hill Top Equine Therapy.
Rose said she first came to the shelter not as an advocate, but after leaving an abusive relationship in 2008.
“Not only did they help me throughout my whole life, but now I’m employed by them and I can provide for myself and for my son,” Rose said. “It’s really amazing to have gone from being a client there and being able to stand up here and tell you how they helped me.”
Rose said when she escaped that situation nearly 10 years ago, she didn’t fully realize the extent of the abuse. She said she left the shelter and returned to the abusive relationship before finally breaking free.
“I went back because I felt like I was not worthy, I was ugly, I would never amount to anything,” Rose said. “That is why I went back, and I ended up having a child. I was embarrassed. I was afraid that I would hear ‘I told you so’ and that’s absolutely not what I heard. I would be dead without the advocates of the family shelter.”
After leaving the second time, Rose earned her bachelor’s degree and worked at Arbuckle Life Solutions before returning to the shelter a third time, this time as an advocate.
“I never would have seen myself being in that situation,” Rose said. “I graduated ‘Most Likely to Succeed’ in high school, and when I got myself into that situation I completely felt like a failure. Now, raising my son, being out of it and providing for myself, I realize I was measuring success in all of the wrong ways.”
Rose added that her birthday would be Friday, Sept. 8, a day she might not have lived to see without the shelter’s help.
Callie Tynes, an eighth-grader from Lone Grove, spoke next. Tynes is disabled, and was able to have surgery on her spine after attending Hill Top Equine Therapy for three years.
 “Everyone is amazed at how much my core strength has improved since I’ve been riding around on my therapy horse,” Tynes said. “My orthopedic surgeon was examining me at my pre-op visit, and he thought his machines were broken because my readings went from a 28 to a 35. Therapy with horses has made me more confident and happy.”
UWOSCO has partnered with 33 agencies this year.