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Alina’s Light Holds First In-Person Event Since 2019

by Madison Jarnot

Participants gathering at the starting line of the Walk/Run for Love. All photos by Taylor Boback of Boback Photography.

On Saturday, Oct. 9, Alina’s Light held its first in-person Walk/Run for Love since the start of the pandemic at Settler’s Cabin Park.

Alina’s Light’s goal is to spread awareness and educate people about domestic violence through outreach, scholarships, and donations. The nonprofit organization was established in honor of Alina Sheykhet, a former Pitt-Greensburg student who was killed by her ex-boyfriend, Matthew Darby, on Oct. 8, 2017. Her parents, Yan and Elly Sheykhet, serve as president and vice president of the organization.

“We learn to express our grief not through the pain but through love to Alina,” Elly said to KDKA this month. 

The Outdoor Adventure and Community Service club, which Sheykhet served as the vice president of during her sophomore year of college, recently raised money for the organization at the Activities Fair.

Last year, Alina’s Light held a virtual concert instead of the usual annual run due to COVID-19. The organization donated $1,000 to the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh to help support women and children affected by domestic violence. 

Alina’s Dolls, a project by Alina’s Light, provides tools to families to help create dolls in honor of their loved ones who were lost to domestic violence and displayed dolls at the Walk/Run for Love. 

Alina’s Dolls has memorialized Ryan Ramirez, Dijah Lynn Ybarra, Amanda M. Bennett, Alisha Bromfield-Anicich, Kassedi Clark, and missing Indigenous women in their project so far.

Alina’s Dolls aims to restore the voices of those silenced by domestic violence, give faces to the victims of domestic violence, and help families and survivors find peace through art. Anyone interested in memorializing their loved one with Alina’s Dolls can contact them by email at alinasdolls@alinaslight.com.

Alina’s Light has also been working to pass “Alina’s Law” (H.B. 1747), which would allow judges to enforce protection from abuse orders (PFAs) by mandating that a defendant wear a location-tracking device that would notify local police and the plaintiff if the defendant came within the distance prohibited by the PFA. 

Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman and his wife, Gisele Barreto Fetterman, spoke at the event.

Currently, PFA violations can result in fines or imprisonment, but Alina’s Law aims to prevent such violations from happening in the first place. 

Pennsylvania Rep. Anita Kulik (D), the bill’s main sponsor, told KDKA that she believes the bill will better protect victims of abuse who file PFAs.

“With electronic monitoring, the victim would have a fighting chance to get to safety, someplace safe, know the defendant is in the vicinity, be able to call police, call a friend, somebody to alert the situation,” Rep. Kulik said.

Sheykhet filed a PFA after Darby broke into her home on Sept. 20, 2017, and the PFA was served to Darby on Oct. 5, just three days before her death. Despite the PFA, Darby broke into Alina’s home again and murdered her. Yan and Elly believe that stricter legislation such as Alina’s Law could’ve saved her life.

“If we could save at least one life, it would be worth it so her death didn’t go in vain,” Elly told KDKA.

More information about upcoming events from Alina’s Light is available on their website, Facebook, and Instagram. Anyone interested in donating to the organization can do so online here.

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