11th annual Cindy Gannon Walk for Women
The 11th annual Walk for Women was held on Southeast’s campus, on April 7, and it marked the last one for Cindy Gannon, senior associate director of athletics and senior woman administrator.
Gannon earned both her bachelor’s (1985) and master’s (1987) degrees from Southeast.
She has been a part of the Southeast Missouri athletics staff since 1988, transitioning from a successful coaching career to administration in 2005. She served as director of athletics on an interim basis in 2007-08 and 2011-12. Today, she serves as the sport administrator for the Southeast women's basketball, volleyball, soccer, softball and gymnastics programs. She also oversees event management and sports information and is responsible for the athletic department’s equity and diversity programs and departmental policies and procedures. The Walk for Women originated during her administrative years.
“Ten years ago I had a vision that I wanted to create something for our women’s athletics and enhance our scholarship program,” Gannon said. “So I gathered a group of about 10 women in the community that had different backgrounds and brought very different ideas to the table. We brainedstormed, and just really worked together to try to engage the community, and here we are 11 years later.”
The idea for the Walk for Women event was initially developed by Gannon as a
way to recognize the accomplishments of female student-athletes, while helping to raise money to support athletic scholarships. Over the past 10 years, 220 Southeast athletes have been awarded with these scholarships.
The walk supplements the scholarship funds the university can award athletes, both men and women. The event raised more than $500,000, this year.
“The money that we raise doesn’t go to women, it goes to both male and female athletes, but we take the day to celebrate female athletes,” Gannon said.
The walk includes sponsors from local stores and businesses, as well as individual teams that participate in the walk. The team raising the most money is given the Kim Mothershead Award.
Mothershead, a former member of the Southeast board of regents, helped start the walk and served as its first chair. She passed away in August 2012 after a battle with cancer.
“We started the walk with the intention of celebrate women’s athletics,” Gannon said, “because our female athletes have so many wonderful accomplishments, they work so hard, and sometimes don’t get all the press and notoriety that the men’s teams do. So we want to take an opportunity to let the community celebrate women’s athletics with us as a department.”
One female athlete is designated to be the face of the walk, having her picture on billboards, while another shares her story about being a female student-athlete at Southeast.
This year senior cross country and track team member, Sydney O’Brien was chosen to be on the billboards, while senior softball player Riley Hayes, was featured on the promotional video on Southeast’s official Walk for Women’s website.
“I’m very appreciative that Walk for Women gives so many scholarships to student-athletes such as myself and my teammates. ” O’Brien said.
O’Brien is the vice president of the Student Activities Council (SAC), as well as the cross country representative for SAC at Southeast, and for the past two and a half years has been the OVC female representative for SEMO.
She will be travelling to Nashville, Tennessee soon to attend an OVC conference with other schools’ representatives to address major issues on campuses and in legislation for student-athletes across the country.
O’Briens hopes to come back next year as an alum to attend the Walk for Women and see the expansion of the track house for the track and field team, which she a played a role in bringing about.
During a SAC meeting this year, O’Brien casually brought up how the track and field team did not have locker rooms in its outdoor facility. She learned that this was a Title IX violation and filed a report, getting the track house rebuilt with locker rooms for future team members.
Riley Hayes, a senior on the softball team, said she feels fortunate to have such an active Title IX program at Southeast.
“It all starts on the playing field, there needs to be equality for both men’s and women’s teams. If women do not feel confident competing as the men are built up to be, it will carry over into their future careers,” Hayes said.
Hayes received the Representative Scholarship two years ago from the Walk for Women, that is chosen by Gannon each year. The scholarship is awarded to a student-athlete who displays character and professionalism.
“Since I have received the scholarship from Walk for Women, I have tried to implement honoring and encouraging females in my everyday life,” Hayes said.
Southeast director of athletics, Brady Barke, announced that in appreciation for Gannon's commitment and service to the event over the last decade, it would be renamed the Cindy Gannon Walk for Women.