The 12th annual Walk a Mile in Their Shoes event hosted by Domestic and Sexual Abuse Services (DASAS) will take place this Saturday, August 19, at 11 a.m. in Lafayette Park (400 N. Main St.) in Three Rivers. The event strives to raise awareness and funds for survivors of abuse in Southwest Michigan and will feature a one-mile walk, food trucks, and a DJ.
DASAS President Dan Moyle told Watershed Voice Walk a Mile in Their Shoes in an important event not just because of the funds raised, but because the event brings people out in the community to increase awareness. “Domestic abuse, sexual abuse, those things aren’t the most fun to promote, and people don’t feel comfortable talking about it,” he said. “To see us out there on a Saturday in August, we get honks, people stop by and ask questions, so it definitely helps with awareness.”
Participants can register for the one-mile walk on the DASAS website where walkers can purchase a ticket for $30. Moyle said the route will begin on the same side of the street as Lafayette Park, and will travel downtown to the traffic light on Main St. and M-60. Participants will then cross Main St. and walk back to Lafayette Park. For those unable to attend in-person, Moyle said a virtual walk option is available, as well.
“Since COVID impacted events like these in 2020, we turned our event virtual by simply allowing folks to go ahead and donate and register, but then do their own walk, take pictures, and tag us on social media,” he said. “This way they can still take part and still make a donation.”
This year participants will have the option to bring their four-legged friends, as well, and walk in the Bark a Mile. “Oftentimes when a person is in an abusive relationship, they also have pets,” Moyle said. “Sometimes the perpetrator will threaten those pets, or the survivor will have a real fear of that happening. You can’t bring a dog to a shelter, and oftentimes those pets are a barrier to leaving. Bark a Mile is a way of us acknowledging that.”
According to Moyle, Walk a Mile in Their Shoes started off as a national movement, “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes,” and for a long time that was the way DASAS promoted the annual event.
“We had red high heels men would put on and walk in, and it would be funny because men can’t walk well in heels,” he said. “It was a lighthearted way to show that, to build that empathy, because to ‘walk a mile in their shoes’ is to experience their scenario.”
Moyle said a few years ago the event began to evolve and changed the wording from “her” to “their.” “’Their’ brings it now to include anyone of any gender or gender identity,” he said. “Any relationship situation can experience abuse. Walking a mile in ‘their’ shoes – whoever ‘they’ might be— is really building that empathy muscle. Walking a mile in the hot sun, talking to people involved who are maybe survivors themselves, it all helps to build that empathy. You don’t know a person until you walk a mile in their shoes.”
The Walk a Mile in Their Shoes event will help fund the mission of DASAS by funding the emergency shelter needs and operating budget. The typical turnout and sponsorships bring in more than $10,000 to help round out the year for DASAS and the shelter.
“DASAS does have some governmental grants that takes care of some things, but sometimes it is limited on what we can use those funds for,” Moyle said. “The funds raised on Saturday can be used for whatever we need.”
One of those needs is supporting clients staying in the emergency shelter. “It takes around $250 a week to take care of somebody in our shelter, so these funds help with that. We also have other services, too. We try to get into schools and talk about healthy relationships, and do programming like that. Grants take care of things such as therapy, but being able to have a discretionary operating budget helps us to take care of other things we do in the community.” Moyle said he felt one of the biggest things the funds assist with is helping put together a very welcoming and home-feeling shelter for clients and survivors.
Walk a Mile in Their Shoes will run from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on August 19, and also feature a DJ, cake walk, as well as games and activities. Food trucks on site for the event will be Tazty Treatz and No Forks Given Ice Cream Truck. There is still time for those wishing to register to do so. More information can be found on the DASAS website.
Beca Welty is a staff writer and columnist for Watershed Voice.