Respect and dignity for all

by Shannon Rae Gentry
Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Supplied photo by Tom Dorgan 

Participants in the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event, benefiting the Rape Crisis Center of Coastal Horizons Center, gather in downtown Wilmington on Saturday, Sept. 15.

As the fog lifted from the downtown riverfront Saturday morning, the sun-made tiaras and pink glittered shoes stood out almost as much as the smiling faces on the men who wore them. In fact, hundreds of men and women came out donning their best heels for Walk a Mile in Her Shoes to benefit the Rape Crisis Center.

As local female cover band, Velvet Jane, played renditions of modern and classic rock, many men rose to the challenge of walking along the river, starting at Elijah’s Restaurant. Some were in elegant stilettos, while others chose to go with more practical wedges for the everyday man, but many went above and beyond their feet.

For Jack Kelly, emergency nurse at Dosher Memorial Hospital, this was his third year walking. Draped in a long pink gown, golden blonde wig, and star-shaped red, white and blue sunglasses, Kelly proudly wore his Lady Gaga Award sash from last year. Though he obviously chooses to make the most fun he can of the day, he also participates for another reason. 

“Many years ago, a friend of mine was raped by a serial rapist,” he said. “When I found out about what the [Rape Crisis Center] was and what they’re supporting, I thought I had to be a part of it.”

Stacey Kaiser, prevention educator with Coastal Horizons Center, pointed out her
4-year-old son with his pink princess shoes. This is Kaiser’s first walk and she was really excited for the day and the amount of support from the volunteers and community organizations like the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Department and dozens of students from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. 

“This is our big fundraiser for prevention education. ... It’s very successful [and] the community has been really generous this year,” Kaiser said. 

Kaiser and the Rape Crisis Center support victims of sexual abuse by providing counseling, support groups and ensuring needs of any kind are met in cases of sexual violence. Walk a Mile raises thousands of dollars each year to fund those efforts in New Hanover, Pender and Brunswick counties, and the organization works hard to make it an educational experience for as many people as possible. 

“We picked a mile because we wanted it to be accessible to everybody [regardless of physical ability],” Kaiser said. “Plus, we want men to sympathize with women by walking in [their] shoes.”

Before getting the walk started the crowd gathered around for various speakers, but it was the booming voice and classy black pumps of Coastal Horizons board member Bo Dean that energized the crowd. 

“[We] can’t imagine the kind of impact and change that [the center] creates in the lives of women and men in our community,” he said. “It’s extraordinary to see the kinds of resources that are behind this, with such a small group of people. … I want to thank you [the participants],” Dean said, “for what you’re doing to stand up for women, for what you’re doing to stand up for our community, and what you’re doing to stand up for every human being, and the respect and dignity for all of us.”

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