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#BeMoreLikeClaire: Power of collective generosity is helping Douglas County (Column)

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Note: The Lawrence Times is offering some space for area organizations and organizers to express their views, provide updates and attempt to reach other folks who might share their mission. This post is contributed content (i.e., not produced by the Times staff). See more in our Community Voices section, or see how to submit your own piece.

Be kind, work hard, give back — that’s how Claire VanLandingham lived her life.

For the past four years, Claire’s friends and family have embedded those three simple rules into the nonprofit #BeMoreLikeClaire, an organization that carries on her legacy by both harnessing the power of collective generosity to improve the quality of life for all and amplifying the work of nonprofit partners through grantmaking, volunteering, and community outreach.

Claire VanLandingham

On Jan. 3, 2018, Claire, a promising young Navy dentist, was murdered by her ex-boyfriend. In the wake of her tragic loss, #BeMoreLikeClaire was formed with the goal of encouraging others, even those who never met her, to come together to do the work that Claire most certainly would have done. 

Over the past four years, through the power of collective generosity, #BeMoreLikeClaire has awarded more than $195,825 in grants to area nonprofits, with the vast majority located in Douglas County. 

The projects align with #BeMoreLikeClaire’s guiding principles that all people have access to healthy food, comprehensive health care, safe and affordable housing, and transformational role models and mentors; all relationships are free from cruelty, and the Earth and its resources are protected and respected.

Previously funded projects include building a Habitat for Humanity house, donating a van to the Douglas County Dental Clinic to provide children with dental care, and funding the development of Claire’s Kitchen at Just Food. In 2021, #BeMoreLikeClaire supported projects in Lawrence that protect abused children, provide women of color with a trained doula during birth, educate faith communities about relationship violence and how they can help stop it, and provide a space where young gardeners work alongside women in recovery.

On Friday, July 1, the community has an opportunity to continue Claire’s legacy through the fourth annual Give Back Bash, the organization’s largest fundraiser of the year. This event will be held in person at Maceli’s Banquet Hall (1031 New Hampshire St.) and will include food stations, craft beer, mimosas, a cash bar, and a live auction. An online silent auction open to anyone will also run from Friday, June 17 through July 1. Tickets for the event are $100 per person and may be purchased on the #BeMoreLikeClaire website

Among the items up for silent and live auction are: 

  • KU basketball signed by Bill Self and the entire 2022 Championship team
  • Custom Jayhawk cornhole boards
  • Porch Party with wine and cheese pairings 
  • Stand-up paddle board classes 
  • Group game night (“Stranger Things”-themed Dungeons and Dragons, hosted by RPG)
  • 3-month wine club membership

During the event, participants will also have the opportunity to “earn badges” (Claire was a lifelong Girl Scout) by participating in activities based on the #BeMoreLikeClaire six guiding principles.

Station themes:

  • Refreshing mimosa Bubbly Bar
  • Save Our Planet pledge station
  • Claire’s Cakes cupcake decorating booth
  • Give Blood signup
  • Share Your Smile photo booth
  • Stock the Pantry (Elizabeth B. Ballard) donation dropoff
  • Take the Training Claire’s Community signup
  • Claire-Aoke live karaoke and dancing afterparty

Donations raised from this year’s Give Back Bash will help finance the Elizabeth B. Ballard Center’s Room to Grow and Learn program to create a safe and inviting space to address the impact of trauma and teach participating children skills that strengthen their ability to learn. #BeMoreLikeClaire also plans to expand and broaden the impact of Claire’s Community relationship violence prevention program within and outside of Douglas County to train adults to recognize the signs of an unhealthy relationship and help them listen to, support, and educate those in an unhealthy relationship so they can navigate safely out of it. Give Back participants will learn more about both programs and their effect on the community throughout the event.

#BeMoreLikeClaire hopes that as more people learn about Claire’s short but incredible life — and her plans to make the world a more equitable, compassionate and loving place for all — that others will continue to join the organization in working toward her vision.

— Shannon VanLandingham (she/her), executive director, #BeMoreLikeClaire
— Erin Wolfram (she/her), board member, #BeMoreLikeClaire

Get help in Lawrence

Domestic violence situations: The Willow Domestic Violence Center
  • Reach the Willow for help 24/7 at 785-843-3333.
  • Find more resources on the Willow’s website at this link.
  • National hotline: Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), text “START” to 88788, and/or visit thehotline.org to chat and learn more, 24/7.
File for an order of protection

In Kansas, victim-survivors of stalking and abuse can file for court orders of protection from abuse or stalking online. Visit kspop.org and follow the instructions on the website. The service is available for any county in Kansas.

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