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posted: 2/14/2013 4:56 PM

Valentines for domestic abuse survivors

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  • Sarah McClarey, top left, and Cindy Rodriguez deliver 10 dozen roses and gifts to victims of domestic violence and their children at a Northwest suburban safe house Thursday.

       Sarah McClarey, top left, and Cindy Rodriguez deliver 10 dozen roses and gifts to victims of domestic violence and their children at a Northwest suburban safe house Thursday.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

  • Sarah McClarey, left, and Cindy Rodriguez deliver dozens of roses to a suburban safe house Thursday.

       Sarah McClarey, left, and Cindy Rodriguez deliver dozens of roses to a suburban safe house Thursday.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

 
 

More than 100 women who have been victims of domestic abuse got a special surprise this Valentine's Day.

Operation Shelter Cupid -- a program started by Sarah McClarey after her own experience in a women's shelter -- delivers a dozen red roses to women living in domestic violence shelters or transitional housing.

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On McClarey's first Valentine's Day in a shelter she bought herself flowers. The next year she gave them to other women like her and the program has expanded from there each year.

"Holidays were always the worst, which I learned was typical because of the heightened emotions," McClarey said of her experience in a violent relationship.

"So we took back this holiday and changed the meaning just to make sure these girls have a good day."

McClarey and other WINGS (Women In Need Growing Stronger) alumni raise money and delivered the flower bouquets to several shelters around the Chicago area.

"When they walk into those shelters with flowers there's not a dry eye," said WINGS Executive Director Rebecca Darr. "It has a special meaning for the recipients because of what these women have been through and then they turn around and give back.

"I'm blown away by how strong and courageous they all are."

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