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Extreme Hike: Grand Canyon

Domestic violence survivor undertakes intense challenge to support women and children.

Written by Lysa Allman-Baldwin in 435 South Magazine

Maybe Dean Newton’s family and friends were right when they said he was crazy.

On paper alone the challenge looked grueling: 21 miles on foot—12 down and 9 up—over very uneven terrain. Traversing 13 different climate zones ranging from 32 degrees Fahrenheit to triple-digit heat. Nevertheless, the rewards of challenging himself to help others was simply too compelling.

From Surviving to Thriving
Dean Newton, a 41-year-old Prairie Village resident and chief marketing and sales officer at Delta Dental Kansas, is one of the “lucky ones.” He’s gone from surviving to thriving after a childhood punctuated with domestic violence. That experience, however, gave Newton an “insider’s perspective” that he utilizes to counsel others facing domestic violence issues, and as a member of the Board of Directors at the Kansas City, Mo.-based Rose Brooks Center.

Established in 1979, Rose Brooks Center is named after Rosa Brooks, a Kansas City resident who sheltered the homeless and sick children in her home. A leader in innovative domestic violence programs and support, the center is a 75-bed facility that provides a safe, comfortable home for women and children who need emergency safety. A new wing currently under construction will add an additional 24 beds.

“The central role the organization plays is to provide a safe home for thousands of women and children in the area,” Newton says. “[However] the growing demand for services is outpacing the resources. Last year, we had to turn away 2,700 women and children. That is simply unacceptable. We must raise more money to address this problem.”

Ergo, Newton’s extreme adventure last month to raise money for Rose Brooks. “I wanted to do something different, and thought an extreme challenge such as a Grand Canyon hike would be a good way to raise awareness of this acute problem in the area,” he recalls.

Soul Steps
Hiking the Grand Canyon from rim to rim is no easy feat. It entails an intense 5,700-foot vertical descent, followed by a 4,500-foot vertical ascent, in extreme conditions. Hypothermia, dehydration, and severe heat exhaustion are common. Yet Newton was determined.

“The journey is a long, strenuous hike [and] the combination of very steep sections, numerous rock steps of various heights and the altitude all conspire to tax even the fittest of hikers,” he says. To prepare, Newton underwent a rigorous cardio and weight training regimen to build stamina, strengthen his legs and support the core muscles needed to carry a 15-pound backpack for an extended period of time.

And, oh yeah, Newton completed the 21-mile hike in one day in early October, an undertaking The National Park Service and Grand Canyon Park do not endorse.

“While there were serious risks,” Newton says, “I feel that there are so many victims of domestic violence who face far greater challenges than anything I would experience on this trip.”

According to Sarah North, director of marketing and communications for Rose Brooks, even one person can make a difference.

“Dean is a committed individual who came up with this creative and personal way to help an organization he believes in,” she says. “We often hear people say, ‘I just don’t know how to help.’ This is a terrific example of creative fundraising and shows how everyone can be impactful — whether giving of their time, talent or treasure.”

To date, Newton has raised more than $35,000 (people can still donate in his honor via the Rose Brooks Web site), and 100 percent of every dollar raised will provide essential supplies like food and clothing, and support Rose Brooks’ life-saving programs.

“A one-night stay for a woman and child costs approximately $100,” North says.

“Dean’s gift to us is so inspiring because it has already provided 350 safe nights for domestic violence victims.”

Saving Lives, One Person at a Time
Because the demand for services is so great, Rose Brooks, like other domestic violence agencies and organizations in the Kansas City area, is often filled beyond capacity. They currently have 96 individuals in their 75-bed shelter; 36 of whom are children. As a result, their 24-bed expansion is crucial to continuing to provide shelter, basic necessities, counseling and other services.

For Newton, the hike, his role on the Board of Directors, and as a domestic violence survivor, serve as means to help end the cycle of violence.

“Helping survivors and their children move toward safe and independent violence-free lives is a cause that is extremely important to me,” he says. “As a child growing up in a violent household, I know from personal experience the impact domestic violence can have on a family. If we did not have access to the support and services provided by organizations like Rose Brooks, I do not know where we would be today.”

How You Can Help
Last year Rose Brooks—which also has staff in 13 area hospitals and clinics, in the Jackson County Prosecutor’s office and court system, and at the Kansas City Police Department Specials Victims Unit—provided 57,822 safe nights to women and children.

The community can help by donating money and much needed items such as women’s and children’s clothing, baby formula, diapers, and personal hygiene items. Gifts may also be donated during Rose Brooks’ annual gift drive in early December at Ward Parkway Center, which helps families living in the shelter during the holidays experience a little joy on their journey toward a brighter, violence-free future.