By Neil Grasso
Over 1,300 students, faculty members, and local townspeople gathered near the Fairfield train station on Saturday, April 28, to participate in the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes fundraising event. The focus of the event is to challenge young men to raise awareness about the harm of sexualized violence against women in their local communities.
During the event, men are asked to walk one full mile in red high-heeled shoes in order to symbolize a sense of understanding with those who were victims of violent sexual abuse.
This was the sixth consecutive year that the walk has been organized by the Center for Family Justice.
“I found the walk very empowering and moving. I loved seeing everyone from the community come out together and stand for a cause,” said Kerri Walsh, a sophomore psychology, and criminal justice double-major.
Students and faculty from Sacred Heart University and Fairfield University came together to participate in the walk, as well as groups from Fairfield Warde, Fairfield Ludlowe, and Saint Joseph’s High School.
Following the walk, an award ceremony where individuals and organizations were honored for their contributions to the cause took place.
Some of the speakers at the award ceremony included the President and CEO of the Center for Family Justice Debra Greenwood, Fairfield Police Chief Gary MacNamara, and state senator Tony Hwang.
Sacred Heart University fraternity Delta Tau Delta won three awards at the event: best-designed t-shirts, best-designed shoes, and the Take a Stand award, which recognizes the organization that demonstrated the most support for the mission of the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes campaign.
The fraternity participated in the walk as a part of their local philanthropy, which is raising awareness against sexual assault and domestic violence.
Barb Susi, a philanthropy mentor for the gentlemen in Delta Tau Delta and survivor of violent abuse herself, commented on the increased participation in the walk as a result of Sacred Heart University President John Petillo’s support for the cause.
“Dr. Petillo’s belief in Delta Tau Delta’s local philanthropy is what’s really making the overall participation from the school increase with each passing year. He’s provided multiple means of transportation for students, making it easier to attend the walk than ever before,” said Susi, a Bridgeport native. “The Center for Family Justice, the police department, the civic leaders, and the students and staff of Sacred Heart are making this event bigger and better than the last every single year.”
According to the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes website, the organization was created by Frank Baird in 2001. At first, the organization simply hosted walks with a few men that would walk around a park in high-heeled shoes. Since then, the movement has become a globally recognized fundraiser that has generated millions of dollars in donations.
Proceeds from each walk are donated to local rape crisis centers, domestic violence shelters and other sexualized violence education, prevention, and remediation programs.
The walk on April 28 in Fairfield raised over $28,000 for the Center for Family Justice. Donations came from teams representing schools, sports teams, school clubs, Greek life organizations, and companies local to the Bridgeport/Fairfield areas.