While owner Roxane Mann is excited about the new products she’s chosen for the fall and winter lines at her Walk on Water boutique, she’s more focused on what she’s able to give back to women and children in our community.
Roxane, alongside a team of volunteers, recently hosted the ninth annual Friends Helping Friends 5K to support SafeHouse of Seminole, an organization that offers assistance to local victims of domestic abuse (see page 64 for full coverage of the event). SafeHouse offers hope and help through medical attention, legal assistance, counseling, and recovery.
Roxane’s relationship with SafeHouse began when her son was still in grade school. When asked to begin a parent outreach project, Roxane’s prayers led her to focus on SafeHouse, and her dedication to the programs there began with the planting of a small garden of hope.
The Friends Helping Friends 5K was born soon after as a small race that garnered only $500 at its inaugural event.
“I was told nobody would come because nobody wants to talk about domestic violence,” recalls Roxane. “We had maybe 150 people that first year.” This past September, however, the event brought in a whopping $40,000, every penny of which was donated to SafeHouse.
“We have tremendous sponsors who support the event, and the whole community comes out,” Roxane says with appreciation. Some women who have received help from SafeHouse also choose to run, and “it’s a life-changing experience for them, to see the community support,” Roxane adds.
Roxane has witnessed the hurt a little too close to home. Four years ago, a dear friend was killed at the hands of her husband.
“Patty Hitt was valedictorian at Lyman High School and the president of our sorority at UCF,” remembers Roxane. “You would never think she would be a domestic abuse victim. She came to every one of my events. She supported everything I did.”
Now Roxane honors her friend by dedicating each run in memory of Patty.
This year, due to Hurricane Irma, “we only had 200 signed up the week before the race,” says Roxane, but she pounded the pavement to garner interest. “I reached out to every person I knew. I asked for prayers and support.”
She went to the Lake Mary YMCA, announcing the race in all the workout classes, and she visited local gyms and yoga places, too.
You name it!” says Roxane. Her work paid off. “It was amazing because, that day, we had more than 1,000 people participate. And we had 120 volunteers. The take-off was awesome. I high-fived every person there to thank them for their support. That’s what this is all about, to have our whole community come out and support women who are climbing out of very difficult circumstances.
“People may ask, what does a clothing store have to do with putting on a 5K?” Roxane asks. “But our store’s whole purpose is to make a difference in the community; it’s our mission. We use the blessings that God gives us to help those in need. It’s a hard time now, being impacted by this hurricane and everything that’s going on in our world. What I love the most about our store is that people feel comfortable stopping in as a neighborhood gathering spot.”
Following the storm, Walk on Water had water and power, so Roxane opened up to anyone who needed respite.
“There was no need to buy anything,” she says. “People just came to relax.”
With the race and the hurricane behind her, Roxane is able to focus on an exciting fall, including new and updated items, the release of a top-secret line, and a live online fashion show during which clients can get a jump start on holiday shopping from their cozy couch.
No matter where her business takes her, though, Roxane’s heart is with this community.
“We really care about our community, and our relationships are everything to us,” she says.