Time to walk-a-mile to break the cycle
Ryan Sweiss is trying to raise $2,000 for his contribution to Walk-a-Mile In Her Shoes for the Camrose Women’s Shelter. The annual walk will once again be part of the Big Valley Jamboree parade on Aug. 3. Josh Aldrich/ Camrose Canadian
Ryan Sweiss is willing to go the extra mile to raise awareness to end domestic violence.
He says if he can raise $2,000, not only will he be putting on the iconic red high heels for Walk-A-Mile In Her Shoes during the Big Valley Jamboree Parade, he’ll put on a dress as well.
The annual fundraiser is a major campaign for the Camrose Women’s Shelter and other shelters around the country. This year funds are bring raised for the shelter’s Second Stage, low income transitional housing project, but almost as important as the money is getting the awareness generated.
The key behind this initiative is it is men who are taking responsibility for their actions, as men are responsible for 90 per cent of domestic abuse.
“We are the solution. In my opinion it’s breaking a chain of what someone considers to be normal, which is absolutely not normal — the violence and abuse on women, children, anybody,” said Weiss, the general manager of Aaron’s in Camrose. “For the women and children, this is what the child will grow up seeing is normal or appropriate or OK and it’s not at all. Therefore it is up to us men to be leaders and show this is not right and support this Walk-a-Mile.”
As of Friday, there were 25 walkers signed up to participate in this year’s event, three of whom are from the University of Alberta-Augustana.
Domestic and sexual violence is an important issue on campuses around the country, and Augustana is no different. They have a number of different programs in place to deal with the issue.
“No university community is immune to the issue,” said dean Allen Berger. “We can’t target students who themselves have come from histories of family violence, that’s not information we have, our programs are more focused on general community. We do a lot of education, particularly with first-year students, our athletics department is very active with our student athletes in doing educational programs. The challenge as we welcome about 350 new students each year is to enculturate them in the community that values respect, values consent in sexual relationships.”
The school is also involved with the women’s shelter with 10-20 students volunteering every year.
“Just awareness that there is such a thing as a cycle is powerful for our students, whether they have first-hand experience or not,” said associate dean academic Karsten Mundel. “By working in the women’s shelter, they get a way better appreciation of the complexity of that and often it takes a while to break that cycle that women may be in the shelter multiple times before they are fully able to break free.”
Berger and Mundel will be joined by executive director of student life Randal Nickel as they march in the parade in their red shoes but they will be marching with the Augustana entry.
Camrose Women’s Shelter executive director Nora-Lee Rear said this is their biggest fundraiser of the year. They have a goal of raising at least what they raised last year when they brought in $23,000 through the campaign, four years ago they hit $32,000 as a high-water mark and they would like to get it back to that point. There is a suggested $50 minimum registration fee if a walker cannot raise more than that, but the fee can be waived if pledges are above that total. Rear added they would like to have 75 men signed up for the walk this year.
The Shelter finished an expansion project earlier this year and has now set its sight on their Second Stage housing project which helps women and families at the shelter transition back into the world. Every year roughly 400 women and children stay at the shelter, which can house up to 25 people at a time.
Second Stage is still in the developmental stages with the biggest hurdle being acquiring land.
This is the second year Walk-A-Mile will be a part of the Big Valley Jamboree Parade on Aug. 3. The first four years of event was held on the walking track at the Camrose Recreation Centre, however, exposure was limited.
“Even more important that fundraising, we want to raise awareness of the long-standing effects of domestic violence on women,” said Rear.
“It is extremely important for us to involve men in ending domestic violence because we’re only working with part of our equation in our shelters … it’s everyone’s responsibility to become informed and to come out aware and help end domestic violence.”
Walk-A-Mile will be holding a shoe fitting at Sole City Shoes 4851 50 Street on Thursday from 1-7 p.m.