OKC Bombing Survivor, Susan Walton, Didn't Let Her Tragedy Hold Her Back From Helping Others
July 9, 2019 .5 min read
After a 14-year marriage came to an end, Susan Walton, like many other single moms, found herself in a severe point of struggle.
Not only did she have to take care of her children and a home to maintain, but she also had to work for a living in order to keep everything and everyone afloat.
But with limited funds as a single mom, Walton found herself struggling to meet necessities that most would never even think about unless they were faced with the same predicament. One of those necessities being the ability to fund a very strict dress code enforced by her job.
To elaborate, at the time, Walton worked in the banking industry, which had a much-mandated dress attire that called for suits and just like today, suits don’t come cheap. But Walton always believed that you dressed for the role you wanted.
Ever hear the saying: “dress for success“?
Well, Walton is a firm believer.
And after speaking with a woman named Carol Henderson, who was a single mom as well, they both agreed to go into business together to start a nonprofit Suited for Success, which aimed to provide interview-quality, professional business clothing at no charge to economically disadvantaged women in Central Oklahoma.
But that initiative came to a quick halt on the morning of April 19, 1995, where Walton faced an event that would forever change her life.
On the morning of April 19th, Walton entered the credit union inside the Murrah building, just moments before the OKC bombing took place.
Walton has no recollection of the bombing but was left with a basal skull fracture, nerve damage behind both eyes, a broken nose, six missing teeth, a fractured jaw (in six places), ruptured spleen, and both legs crushed from the knees down.
Walton was one of the most severely injured survivors of the bombing and underwent twenty-five surgeries and five years of rehabilitation.
But as soon Walton gained her ability to speak again, she spoke out about her mission: Suited for Success.
After the bombing, her story hit the media, allowing her to receive the seed funding she needed to launch her nonprofit. With the funding, Walton and Henderson were able to dress women in need of professional clothes so they could go on job interviews and enter the workforce.
So, Why Suited for Success?
The answer may be obvious but this initiative not only speaks to a personal struggle but it also speaks to a bigger human need, especially in her community.
That’s where and why Suited for Success came into play.
A woman without a job cannot afford career clothing. And without career clothing, a woman is unlikely to get a job.
Walton wanted to break that cycle.
Today, Suited for Success has dressed over 10,000 women and provides more than the standard suit. In fact, Suited for Success provides shoes, purses, open hosiery, makeup, and whatever else a woman may need to get ready for work in the morning.
But what if your job calls for scrubs? Not to worry, Suited for Success can provide scrubs and anything else a woman may need to dress the part in the medical (or similar) field.
Here’s how Suited for Success works:
A client must make an appointment before visiting and can be made by calling: (405) 521-1089.
During the appointment, the client will receive individual attention and can expect a "boutique-style experience" where a Suited for Success professional will suggest articles of clothing and offer expertise on the proper size and fit.
The client will then receive two full outfits (depending on size availability), along with coordinating accessories, shoes, bag, undergarments, and unopened makeup and toiletries.
After the client has become gainfully employed, she may return for a second visit and choose additional pieces that will give her the extra boost in confidence to make a great impression on the job.
After the appointment, Suited for Successwill follow up and ask for an evaluation of their service and learn about the client’s success in securing employment.
Suited for Success also offers quarterly seminars to help:
help women learn skills that are necessary to enter the workforce
and to reinforce practices that women are learning at their current place of employment.
To make this all possible, Suited for Success works with over 70 different types of job readiness programs to help all women who are in need, ranging from the woman is just coming out of high school to women who may have lost their husband and need to reenter the workforce.
No matter the woman in the need, the goal is still the same, to empower them and help them find and keep jobs that provide them with economic independence.
So, What Does the Future Hold for Suited for Success?
Walton hopes to one day also serve men in need as she would love to especially help single fathers and men coming out of the military.
Walton also hopes to one day have a mobile vehicle for Suited for Success to serve rural Oklahoma.
And with your help, this can one day be a possibility.
How You Can Play a Part inSuited for Success:
Monetary Donations: The nonprofit is always looking for monetary contributions as it helps keep the program up and running.
To provide immediate help, you can donate today by visiting suitedforsuccessokc.com and clicking the "donate" button.
You can also mail a check to:
Suited for Success
4149 Highline Blvd, Suite 370
Oklahoma City, OK 73108
Clothing Donations: Before donating clothing, Suited for Success, asks that YOU ask yourself the following question:
Would I wear this outfit to an interview or to work tomorrow?
If the answer is yes, please make sure your donation is:
new or gently worn (not more than five years old),
is either a suit, dress, pantsuit, blouse, skirt, or pant,
in style (classic/conservative),
on a hanger,
has no stains or tears,
and is pressed and ready for someone to wear.
Suited for Success also accepts:
new or gently used shoes, purses, briefcases, jewelry, and scarves,
and new pantyhose in conservative shades and all sizes.
Volunteer: If you’re in the Oklahoma City area, you can always volunteer your time as a:
Suiting Consultant – who helps women find the appropriate interview attire,
Sorter – who helps sort and to arrange the clothing donated,
Clerk – who helps to perform essential office functions,
Fundraiser – who helps raise funds,
or a Sales Associates – who helps shoppers find what they need by offering fantastic customer service.
If you’re thinking about starting a business or nonprofit organization, Walton says:
I say, go for it. Do your research. Get support and mentors behind you that can advise you, that was one thing that I did. And just remember to keep talking and working. And don’t give up.
Meredith is a Philadelphia native with a bachelor’s degree in Integrated Marketing Communications from Duquesne University and has worked in digital marketing for over seven years. She’s passionate about writing to women to help them feel more confident in their financial lives.