Two Brookdale clubs held a light-up-the-garden event 5 p.m. Feb. 17 honoring the memory of a murdered former Brookdale student, Stephanie Parze.
More than 70 people attended the event, which was in honor of Parze, a Brookdale alumnus who was a victim of domestic violence. The Stephanie Nicole Parze Foundation, created in her memory, shared Parze’s story to help individuals dealing with domestic violence, sexual abuse and missing loved ones.
In the autumn of 2019, Stephanie Parze of Freehold was strangled to death by her abusive ex-boyfriend, at just 25-years-old. She was reported missing for 87 days; during that time, search parties relentlessly strived to find her alive or deceased, by using many rescue methods such as drones and helicopters.
Over 1,000 people made an effort to find Parze. They searched until her body was found on Jan. 26, 2020, in Old Bridge. In the rigorous search process, it was mentioned by the victim’s father, Ed Parze, that “two other bodies were found.” His daughter’s situation, and those similar to it, occur more frequently than the average individual is aware.
The event was organized by Brookdale’s Women in Learning and Leadership (WILL) and supported by Brookdale’s The Innovation Network (TIN), which built and operates the Monarch Waystation and Butterfly Garden.
At the beginning of the event, the president of WILL, Amanda Zelevansky, introduced the victim’s father to share his daughter’s story. He revealed that his late daughter’s birthday is this Saturday, Feb. 19, which is one of the reasons for the timing of the event. Ed Parze mentioned that it was his very first time standing up and telling his daughter’s struggle with domestic violence.
The emotion-filled audience shed tears with Parze as he continued to tell the battle that Stephanie endured. Her father stressed that many people are not aware of how common these cases truly are. In fact, Parze told those assembled that “ a person in the U.S. goes missing every 11 minutes.” Furthermore, this high statistic caught the attention of many members of the crowd.
Zelevansky brought various speakers up to the microphone to help further spread awareness and guidance about domestic violence. For instance, Brookdale’s director of student services, Christopher Jeune, gave Brookdale students insight into a plethora of services available to aid them with any challenges they may face.
After the rounds of speaking concluded, all in attendance were given purple glow sticks to crack together in honor of Stephanie Nicole Parze. In addition, Brookdale’s butterfly garden was intertwined with bright fairy lights that were all lit up in her memory. The combination of these lights lit up the evening sky.
The Stephanie Nicole Parze Foundation continues to actively seek donations, sponsors and interns. The charitable donations made will all be put toward the foundation’s efforts to provide support, intervention, and education to individuals and families dealing with domestic violence, sexual abuse, and missing loved ones.
This nonprofit organization is committed to keeping Stephanie Parze’s legacy alive, while continuing to share her story, in hopes of preventing others from falling into her situation.
To reach the national domestic violence hotline, call 800-799-7233.
Original article published in The Current.