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Nov 09,2007
Locals bring the Olympic dream to Darfur
by Sarah J. Stark

Bend, OR – A grassroots group in Central Oregon organizes to bring an
end to the suffering in Darfur, Sudan. The group, comprised of people
of all ages from throughout Central Oregon, is organizing the Central
Oregon Dream for Darfur event as a leg of the symbolic Olympic Dream
for Darfur Torch Relay. The relay is currently traveling to more than
30 cities across the United States.

Local Iditarod athlete, Rachael Scdoris, will join other notable torch
carriers and participants. Scdoris had the honor of carrying the
Olympic Torch to the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. She is a member
of the United States Association of Blind Athletes and was honored by
the Women's Sports Foundation as one of the top women athletes in
America.

The event will include talks by the founder of Stop Genocide Now,
Gabriel Stauring, and Holocaust survivor, Maria Hausman. Hausman, an
instructor at LaPine High School, will share from her experience
surviving concentration camps and explain why taking a stand for
Darfur is so important now. The event will also include: art from
local students, music, a candle vigil, information tables, and a kids
and family art station where messages of hope for the children in
Darfur will be hand-delivered to Darfur refugees this winter by Stop
Genocide Now.

The organizing group hopes to emphasize the constructive role that
China can play in ending the ongoing atrocities in Darfur. Host cities
across the country have chosen symbolic routes for the torch
relay—many of which pass by memorials for past genocides and other
crimes against humanity or locations that have a significant tie to
China.

The Olympic Dream for Darfur Torch Relay aims to urge China to use its
unique position to lead the world in bringing an end to the ongoing
violence and humanitarian crisis in Sudan. China's influential
position stems from its role as Sudan's chief diplomatic sponsor,
major weapons provider, and largest foreign investor and trade
partner, as well as host of the 2008 Summer Olympics. One local
organizer, Cam Chambers sums up the national movement by saying,
"Let's bring out the good China for the Olympics."

 "This is not a boycott of the Olympics," says group member Sarah J
Stark. "Rather, we are using the platform of the Olympics to emphasize
the need for peace and responsible world citizenry. China happens to
be in a powerful position to impact the international community—this
event is our way of calling on China and the rest of the world to make
that impact a positive one."

Stark states, "While the event calls on China to do their part, at the
same time we are calling on ourselves as individuals and communities
to do our part. If history teaches us anything about genocide and mass
atrocities, it is that the world cannot stand idly by and watch. If we
remember the Holocaust, Rwanda, Cambodia, we know closing our eyes
will not make the problem go away."

The weekend of events in Oregon happens during the historic
Kristallnacht, or Night of Broken Glass, which began November 9, 1938.
Kristallnacht was a massive coordinated attack against Jewish
shopkeepers throughout the German Reich where thousands of storefront
and synagogue windows were broken and their contents inside destroyed.
Central Oregon Dream for Darfur organizers believe this weekend serves
as a stark reminder of the world's promise "Never
Again," and the responsibilities we have as humans—no matter where we
live—to make sure "Never Again" becomes a reality.

Organizers hope the event will inspire others to play their part in
standing up against genocide. They stress that everyone can play a
part, no matter where they live. "I have gotten some odd feedback from
some when they learned we were organizing for Darfur in Central
Oregon," Stark says. "Someone told me we had no voice, that it was
meaningless because we were in Central Oregon. But in my mind, the
only way to ensure that nothing happens is to do nothing."

LaPine High School students Rebecca Toepfer and Jesi Willis provide
good examples of Central Oregonians doing what they can to help
Darfur. They are organizing this event, spreading the word, meeting
with teachers and administration in LaPine, and creating special
'Dream for Darfur' wristbands for a fundraiser. Neither are old enough
to drive, so every week they carpool with a relative for meetings in
Bend. When asking Rebecca Toepfer why she is involved she says, "I
feel so bad for the men, women and kids that have to go through the
torture that is going on in Darfur, and I just want to some how help
them."
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