Walking in her shoes is not about you
Drew Conlon will mark his third Walk a Mile in her Shoes Men's March to End Domestic Violence a the Kick’N Country Parade on Aug. 2. He is hoping to raise $3,000 to support the Camrose Women's Shelter. Leah Simonot/Camrose Canadian/Postmedia Network
Drew Conlon is prepared for his annual promenade in his mom’s red pumps.
They fit like too-tight hockey skates, but the step towards ending rape, sexual assault and gender violence against women is enough to make him comfortable in the foreign footwear.
“You’ve got to get over the fact that it’s not about you,” said Conlon, who will participate in the Camrose Women’s Shelter Walk a Mile in Her Shoes Men’s March for a third time at the20th annual Kick'N Country Parade on Aug. 2.
“Can I say I was directly affected by that? No. But I couldn’t imagine … you have nowhere to go. What would you do?”
There were 167 women and 178 children who accessed the Camrose Women’s Shelter last year. This is up about 20 women from the previous year.
“For the last two years we have been very busy,” said shelter executive director Nora-Lee Rear, offering the recession as a possible trigger.
“The economy always affects what’s happening in our lives and our homes,” she said.
The Camrose Women’s Shelter provides emergency housing for families fleeing domestic violence, in-house services such as on-site teachers and healing and safety planning to support women and children on their way out of the shelter.
There are even more people who access the shelter’s outreach service, including those that support women who are not yet ready to leave an abusive relationship.
Alberta has the third highest number of domestic violence cases in Canada, with women in rural communities at greater risk due to thinner resources and increased isolation. Although Camrose is a city, it serves a lot of the outlying areas.
As the shelter’s major fundraising campaign, the pledges gathered by walkers helps make this service possible. It is significant that 52 men are expected to slip into red heels for the parade this year.
“That’s been our goal for the last two years, to hit 50 walkers. To me that means we are getting the awareness out there [of] how important this walk is and that the men in the community are stepping up,” said Rear.
“We’ll never address the issue of domestic violence if we’re not working together as partners. It’s a two-way street, and so for men to be involved in a Walk a Mile, they are basically showing their support — they are being role models for the community, they are saying that they would like to see that domestic violence ends in our community.”
Conlon said he learns more each year about the organization’s reach in the community, which keeps him returning — always with a higher fundraising goal.
“Everybody there is super supportive and you kind of start to realize how many people they do actually help … you get people donating to you, so they’re giving you the sponsorship, and then you find out that they were actually at the Camrose Women’s Shelter when they originally moved to Camrose,” he said.
“It’s something that makes an impact on their lives so greatly that they’re able to start out where they didn’t think they could.”
Conlon raised the bar this year to $3,000. Though he knows he will be hard-pressed to meet this mark, he is passionate about the cause.
“A lot of people don’t realize domestic violence and everything is still prevalent, but it is. Obviously, there’s still people there. There’s still people going to the women’s shelter, and they wouldn’t have been able to get a roof if it wasn’t for all the donors that raised all the money,” he said.
“Walking in the parade, it’s super embarrassing for some guys. I’ve noticed that they’re pretty shy. But you get used to it. It’s not a big deal.”