The Melanie Rieger Conference will mark two decades examining violence and victims of crime when it starts on Wednesday.
Channel 3's Eric Parker will be the emcee for Wednesday's opening ceremony in New Britain. He spoke to one of the organizers about how the conference is keeping a young woman's legacy alive for her parents.
The Melanie Ilene Rieger Memorial Conference against Violence has been held for more years than Melanie Rieger was alive.
"Melanie was a 19-year-old vibrant college student, wanting to be a social worker, a champion for the underdog,” Merit Lajoie with the Office of the Victim's Advocate said. “This is keeping her memory alive and doing the work that she would be doing had she not been murdered.”
The conference was tirelessly organized by Melanie’s parents Sam and Wanda Rieger. The conference focuses on victims of crime especially victims of domestic violence. It opens each year with a tribute to Melanie Rieger, who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend. Lajoie was there for the first conference and is now an organizer.
“It's very emotional. You hear a lot of personal stories,” Lajoie said. “Some of the speakers come from personal experience, so it can be very emotional, but it's also very uplifting. It gives you hope. It rejuvenates you.”
From victims to social workers, police officers to prosecutors, those attending the 2-day conference have varied backgrounds. Topics have ranged from serial killers to Sandy Hook.
The conference allows its national speakers to be approachable.
“They're not untouchable, they are not on the stage and then they leave,” Lajoie said. “They become part of the audience, you have access to them, ask them questions, network, gain more information. So it's a very personal experience for the attendees, most of the attendees come back every year.”
The response to a personal tragedy has helped hundreds of others to have a deeper understanding of violence.
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