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Big senior project born of personal conviction

Walk will raise awareness of domestic violence issues, benefit shelter


Last updated 4/24/2013 at 1:34pm

Charli Knight works before her first class at LRHS Tuesday on details for her upcoming walk to raise awareness of domestic violence. Registration forms are available at the school and at The Star — Scott Hunter photo

Life changed for Charli Knight after her sister was murdered by her husband in 2009.

Charli was a freshman in high school at the time, and her dream was to become a chef, an ambition that lost its luster after Collette Pakootas’ death at the age of 23. Charli needed to make a difference of a another kind, to help bring justice to the world.

She’s a senior at Lake Roosevelt High School now, and that meant deciding on some sort of senior project. A walk to benefit a women’s shelter sounded like a good idea. Little did she know.

Tuesday morning, Charli sat in the school library before her first class, counting money, attending to registration forms and details for her “Walk for a Fight” coming up May 4. It’s a much bigger project than she’d counted on, and she’s nervous.

“I’m scared,” she says. “The whole community knows.” What will happen if it doesn’t go well? she worries. Many have promised to take part, but she has just 14 registrations in hand.

She’s come a long way since starting from scratch, knowing nothing about organizing an event like this.

“I have so many people helping,” she says. Especially, Peggy Nevsimal at the chamber of commerce, she notes. “She organized me.”

The goal-oriented young woman, a Gates Scholarship winner, credits local businesses for donating to help cover the cost of t-shirts. NCNB, the Coulee Dam Credit Union, Coulee Medical Center and more have all helped. Sunflower Graphics cut her a break on the shirt printing.

To get it all done Knight skipped her senior year of track, despite hopes she’d had to go to state in javelin.

“I’m here every day after school,” she says, a box full of literature on domestic violence on the table. “I knew what I needed to get done.”

The 5K walk will use the Downriver Trail along the Columbia River. Each walker is asked to donate $10. Proceeds will go to benefit The Support Center, a shelter for battered women in Okanogan, picked after interviews with three such agencies.

But Charli also wants to raise awareness of the traps people fall into that lead to domestic violence. Her sister had been in a relationship for 11 years with her husband Kevin Pakootas, one Charli says was marred by black eyes and a cutting off of family, who had tried interventions.

“It was always that type of relationship,” she recalls. But the violence “doesn’t only affect the victim or the perpetrator,” she says. “It affects everyone.”

In 2011, Kevin Pakootas was sentenced to 20 years in prison by the U.S. District Court in Spokane.

Charli Knight’s longterm goal now is to become a lawyer.

But first, she has to make this walk happen.

One step at a time, Charli. One step at a time.

To Walk for a Fight

Date: Saturday, May 4, 2013.

Time: Registration at 8 a.m.

Walk Start: 10 a.m.

Where: Meet at LRHS football field. Walk will start and end there, and follow the Down River Trail.

Registration forms are available at the LRHS office and at The Star.


Reader Comments(1)

Tania Barnhart writes:

Huge Kudos to you Charli for your courage to address and combat an issue most won't speak about. While so sorry about the tragic loss of your sister please know that the awareness you are raising can, and likely will, save lives because breaking the silence is one of the biggest weapons available in this battle!


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