LEWISTON – The “It Happened to Alexa” Foundation will hold its 11th annual dinner Aug. 2 at Niagara Falls Country Club.
The only one of its kind in the nation, the Lewiston-based foundation provides financial, emotional and advocacy assistance to victims of sexual attacks who prosecute.
Founded by Tom and Stacey Branchini, the foundation honors the courage of their daughter, Alexa, who survived the rape by a stranger who broke into her college dormitory the second week of her freshman year.
In the 11 years since it was established, the foundation has offered support to hundreds of victims of sexual assault and their families, aiding U.S. citizens in 43 states and 15 foreign countries. The foundation assists rape victims and their families by helping offset travel expenses during the litigation process.
The annual fundraiser at the country club will feature a basket auction and entertainment by a local band, sponsored by Hops and Vines. Keith Radford will host the event, which will honor two people in the victim advocate field, one from Niagara County and one from Erie County, as chosen by their peers.
The foundation started an educational outreach program a few years ago and hired a part-time educational outreach/victim support advocate, Sandra Lahrache, last fall. Lahrache is a licensed victim advocate and crisis service counselor and is available to present a program on preventing date rape called “Safe Dates,” which is based on a national program. The foundation established this program as a response to the statistic that one in three adolescents is a victim of dating abuse.
“Niagara County has lost most of its funding for the Safe Dates program, but we have so many requests for the educational outreach,” said Ellen Augello, executive director of the foundation. “In fact, we may have to hire another part-time person. Much of the proceeds from the Lewiston dinner will go to this effort. All the schools want this and are required to include it in their curriculum.”
Lahrache also recently started a Safe Dates program for special-needs students, who are especially vulnerable, Augello said. “This new program has been very, very well received.”
Next year, the foundation will launch a Mount Kilimanjaro fundraising climb that will include a seven-day trek, with a base camp set up by a five-star resort to include gourmet meals and world-renowned tour guides. Events to benefit the organization are also held each year in Palm Beach, Fla.; Boston; and Houston. The Alexa Foundation has attracted a great deal of national attention in the past decade, with coverage on the “Today” show, CNN, the Montel Williams Show and on the O’Reilly Factor numerous times. It has also been covered in Reader’s Digest and People magazine.
Tickets for the Aug. 2 dinner are $150 each, or $1,500 for a table of 10. For more information, visit www.ithappenedtoalexa.org.