Move downtown brings increased participation in annual DASAS fundraiser
Published 9:14 am Tuesday, July 21, 2015
Despite being surrounded by sights like professional bike riders, street magicians and a living, breathing camel, perhaps the most fascinating visual awaiting visitors to downtown Saturday morning was the outfit that the city’s police chief had chosen to wear that day.
Adorned with a big blonde wig, black sunglasses, and giant, black and silver colored platform boots, Director of Public Safety Steve Grinnewald’s choice of attire certainly made him standout, as he led a group of men and women marching down Front Street — many of whom were also wearing heels.
“It was interesting,” Grinnewald said about walking in his new pair of shoes. “You kind of have to relearn to walk in these things.”
The police chief’s and other walkers’ choice of footwear was about making a statement, though not one about fashion — it was to show their support for the women and families that are devastated every year by the impact of domestic abuse.
Domestic and Sexual Abuse Services held their third annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes fundraiser that morning, held in conjunction for the first time with Summer in the City Festival. The event brought in around $7,000 in donations for the local support organization, which provides emergency shelter, counseling and other services to victims of domestic and sexual abuse in Cass, Van Buren and St. Joseph counties.
Held out at the high school track the prior two years, this year’s change in venue has already proved to be beneficial, with around 30 men and women walking during the event, said DASAS Director Kimberly Kramer. The increased visibility even led to a few people walking up and singing up for the march the day of the event, Kramer said.
“It’s great to see new faces alongside our ongoing supporters,” she said.
As in previous years, men participating in the event were given the option of wearing a pair of high heels during the walk. Not only does this lend a bit of levity to the walk, but also makes a statement that men are willing to stand up for the victims of domestic violence.
“We make this fun, and we screw around a bit, but this is for an important cause,” Grinnewald said.
In a region where nearly everyone has been touched by the effects of these crimes, spreading the awareness of DASAS and the support they offer to families is especially important, Grinnewald said.
This sentiment was shared by another walker during Saturday’s fundraiser, Jason Wilt, the director of student housing at Southwestern Michigan College. While he has supported DASAS, which provides services to the school’s students and staff, for years, Saturday was the first chance he got to participate in the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event.
When asked why he wanted to make the awkward match downtown in a pair of red high heels, Wilt simply gestured toward his two young daughters, 3-year-old Emelia and 1-year-old Lila.
“When they grow up, hopefully they won’t to worry about these kinds of things anymore,” Wilt said.