According to Toni Sorenson, “Walking a mile in someone else’s shoes isn’t as much about the walk or the shoes; it’s to be able to think like they think, feel what they feel, and understand why they are who and where they are. Every step is about empathy.”
On April 6, Haven, a local nonprofit that provides services to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking, is hosting its annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event at Gallo Center for the Arts in downtown Modesto. Haven’s WAM made its first local appearance in 2014. WAM’s purpose is to raise badly needed funds to help survivors and to bring awareness to the journey and barriers that gender-based violence survivors face in their healing process.
Empathy, a call to action, fun and humor are all essential themes of this event. Although anyone can participate, only males walk in red, high-heeled shoes. Fueled by a desire to eradicate gender-based violence, men literally walk a mile in an admittedly hilarious fashion. Some strut, some stagger and some fall but all walkers are passionate about continuing a community conversation about gender-based violence. Every step is painfully teeming with empathy and a sincere commitment toward change.
Haven has provided services to victims in Stanislaus County since 1977. May Rico, Haven’s executive director, says, “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes is a combination awareness event and fundraiser. As an awareness event, it allows people an opportunity to visibly support the needs of survivors in our community and make a stand against domestic and sexual abuse and exploitation. As a fundraiser, it is our biggest of the year and as such is vital to the stability of our organization. Help keep us healthy and strong so we can continue to support survivors in being healthy and strong.”
Haven provided services to over 3,000 clients and their families last year. Haven is fierce in its commitment to wipe out gender-based violence. Haven provides assistance with filing restraining orders, support groups, individual peer counseling and prevention services for school-aged children and teens. Haven is a beacon to survivors in Stanislaus County who are often in desperate need of a gentle, nonjudgmental helping hand.
Saturday’s event starts at 8 a.m. An after-party follows at Greens on Tenth. To register, please go to havenwalkamile.org. If you have questions or would like to donate, please contact Denise Hecht at 209-524-4331 or stop by the office at 618 13th St. in Modesto.
Kathleen Rowe-Glendon is a former Bee visiting editor and a community activist.