Saturday, October 19, 2019

Men with big hearts wearing big heels...for a great cause

Taking another diversion this weekend to write about today's 13th annual Walk a Mile in HER Shoes fundraiser for Gillian's Place held at the Pen Centre.  It is an event I have attended since the very first one held downtown at Market Square, and very near and dear to my heart.

The first year men walked the streets downtown, circling King Street, Queen Street, St. Paul Street and James Street, ending up again on King and winding up at Market Square.  I remember that first year the weather was not all that nice and although the relatively small group of men who took part were game, at least one went down with a serious injury, I'm told.

So after that organizers wisely chose to move the event indoors to The Pen Centre, where it has been held every October since then.  The location is ideal as it is enclosed, the floor is smooth and level for the most part, and it is easier to create an audience with all the shoppers already in the mall to begin with.

I think it was the second year onwards I decided to don heels myself to walk with the men, but I never really got a lot of donations, which you need in order to register.  I made it, but just barely.

The last few years, however, I have been on the sidelines as a financial supporter, cheering on the men in heels.  I opted to heed the advice of a lawyer friend of mine who suggested, quite rightly, considering my new career path as a letter carrier for Canada Post, an ankle or foot injury would not be in my best interests.  Especially considering in those early days I didn't qualify for benefits, so if I couldn't work I wouldn't get paid.

So an enthusiastic bystander I became, although maybe before I retire I will don the heels once again for old time's sake.

Those who chose to walk today were all ages, from all walks of life, sharing a common goal:  to end violence against women.  They are to be commended for their determination and willingness to endure a one-mile walk in heels for the betterment of the community, but it is only one day.

Women who seek shelter at Gillian's Place and other women's shelters in communities large and small across the country endure tremendous pain both mentally and physically at the hands of their spouse or partner for great lengths of time.

It shouldn't be that way, and in a perfect world it wouldn't be.  But the reality is it is happening on a daily basis right here in our communities, perhaps right on your own street without you even knowing it.

An acquaintance of mine confessed to me earlier this year she was once in an abusive relationship and frankly, I was shocked to hear it.  A very kind soul with a good heart, she could certainly hold her own in a difficult situation.  Or so I thought.  She told me she ended the marriage and escaped with her children when the situation became untenable.

That story plays out every day in most every community, so she is no different.  But she is a survivor, and I admire her so much for digging deep down inside herself to gather up the courage to leave for a better life elsewhere.

So men walk on this day every year, in a fun event with a very serious purpose:  to raise much-needed funds for Gillian's Place to keep doing what they do, helping those who need it the most.

I don't have numbers on how many participants there were today although it was as large as ever, if not moreso.  But collectively the men who walked raised $125,000 to continue the good work done every day at Gillian's Place, and that translates into a job well done.

Men walk as individuals, as I always did, or as part of a group from a company or club.  No matter how they walk, the result is the same.  And the money raised is greatly needed now more than ever.

Yes, in a perfect world we would not need a Gillian's Place.  But I can't see that happening anytime soon, unfortunately.  So it is vital we do this every year, either by walking ourselves or supporting those who do.  Because you just never know who might benefit from what Gillian's Place can offer them.  It could be someone you never imagined would be in need at all.

So thanks, gentlemen, for a job well done today.  But keep those heels handy, as next year you will be called upon again to show the community just how much you care, and how much we can change the lives of so many each and every day.

Have a great weekend!

October 19th, 2019.

No comments: