SUPPORT - Members of the Red Deer RCMP showed their support last year for the annual Walk A Mile In Her Shoes hosted by the Central Alberta Women’s Outreach Society. file photo

Seventh annual ‘Walk a Mile in Her Shoes’ set for June 7th

Red Deer fundraising event to take place at The Outreach Centre

It’s that time of year again when the fellows don high-heeled shoes and walk a mile in support of The Outreach Centre’s extensive programming against family violence.

The annual fundraiser Walk a Mile in Her Shoes is set for June 7th from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“Last year, about 200 signed up – and I’d love to see 300 guys out this year,” said Darcy Ouellet, fund development officer of The Outreach Centre. “We want to build on it every year.”

Last year, just under $50,000 was raised, and Ouellet is hoping to hit the $70,000 mark this year.

Every year, men gather pledges and walk a mile on the path behind the The Outreach Centre (home of Women’s Outreach) — with, as mentioned, funds going to support an array of programs at the Centre.

These run the gamut from outreach programs, domestic violence support, women’s and men’s groups to boundaries groups, safe visitation and Julietta’s Place (a facility that provides 10 affordable secure suites, while occupants participate in intensive programming to learn how to live life free from violence).

According to the web site, Women’s Outreach began in 1984 as an agency devoted to supporting women affected by family violence.

“This continues as a special emphasis today in programming, public service and public education. We help individuals meet their basic needs and find solutions to the barriers they face.”

Meanwhile, Walk a Mile in Her Shoes has been a success from the get-to – about 90 guys took part in the inaugural event.

“I had heard about the event previously, so I did a little bit of homework to see what was involved.”

Things came together and the community support was there. “It opens up the door to new sponsors, people that may not have supported us before. We also go into businesses, and maybe one or two of the guys are going to do it – then others see that and you might walk out with five or six signed up,” he said.

“It’s a fun event that brings awareness to a very important topic,” he said. “We also don’t charge for registration, and we supply all of the shoes.”

The shoes are supplied for the walkers (all the way up to size 15) and ultimately, it’s a couple of really fun hours that support an extremely worthy cause in the community.

Ouellet said companies often take part too, and will typically bring their guys over for a pre-event shoe fitting.

“MC College is coming out this year because some of the guys have open-toed shoes – so they are going to paint up some toenails for the guys. The Alberta Institute of Massage will be onhand again to give foot massages, too.”

Ultimately, it’s a superb event that really brings the community together, he said, adding the event also helps to encourage conversations around the topic of domestic violence as well.

“We have a lot of guys that do it for the fun aspect, we have guys doing it because they know someone who has been through domestic violence or assault of some sort. I’d say a good majority of the people that do it come back every year,” he said.

This year, Messinger Meats is donating all of the burgers and sausages for the event. Stantec will be cooking as well.

“It’s a fun event – and it’s quick. As long as it takes you to walk a mile. If you are pre-registered and have your shoes, you can show up and do the walk, have your lunch and you are kind of out the door.”

And although it’s a men’s march, women can take part, too. “We’ve had people pushing their nine-month-olds, we’ve had people in walkers, people in wheelchairs in the walk – it’s just a big part of bringing awareness to what we do.”

There is also lots of camaraderie at the event as well. “Every now and again one of the guys might stumble and you will hear 200 guys screaming, ‘Man down’, rushing to help him up!”

Although pre-registration is encouraged, Oullett said last-minute participants are welcome, too. They can make a donation at the time and there will be shoes available.

Another exciting development – new this year is a satellite walk for the cause at Sylvan Lake.

“We were approached by HJ Cody who are partnering with the Rotary Club out at Sylvan Lake, and they wanted to do a satellite walk.

“So we’ve been working with them – their walk will be June 1st. They’ve probably got about 85 people registered already.”

The Outreach Centre serves all of Central Alberta, so the hope is that more local communities will host similar walks down the road as well.

For more information on taking part in the events or for more about sponsorship opportunities, visit www.womensoutreach.ca.

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