Red Shoe Walk and 5K
What: A benefit for the Willow Domestic Violence Center
When: 6 p.m. Friday
Where: Haskell Indian Nations University stadium, 155 Indian Ave.
Registration: $25, or $30 the day of the event, due by noon. See willowdvcenter.org or call 331-2034.
In order to understand the trials and tribulations of others, we are often told to walk a mile in their shoes.
The Willow Domestic Violence Center is asking community members to do just that during its first annual Red Shoe Walk and 5K on May 6 at Haskell Indian Nations University. Men, women and children participants will be donning pairs of red high heels for the mile walk or the 5K run in an effort to bring support and attention to the work of the organization.
Formerly called Women’s Transitional Care Services, the organization became the Willow Domestic Violence Center in 2010. Incorporated in 1976, the intent of the organization is to eliminate domestic and family violence within the community through advocacy, education and its emergency shelter.
The Willow Center serves about 1,500 survivors a year. In recent years, the agency has experienced a 13 percent increase in those it services, said Sarah Terwelp, executive director of the organization.
“Funding raised during the event will help keep the organization’s shelter operating,” Terwelp said. “Specifically, contributions from this event will go toward sheltering survivors, which costs $1,332 for one day. This expense includes security, staff services, food and the safe emergency shelter.”
Though the subject matter may be serious, the event is coordinated with fun in mind.
“This is the first year for this event in Lawrence,” Terwelp said. “We began with the national awareness effort, ‘Walk a Mile in Her Shoes.’”
That effort includes a fundraiser calendar, published in December, with photographs of more than two dozen men in the community sporting red heels. Images include former Kansas University and NBA player Scot Pollard, KU basketball coach Bill Self and Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical Chief Mark Bradford.
“This is our first major fundraiser in 34 years,” said event organizer and Willow board member Cathie Rodkey. “We plan to start choosing next year’s Red Shoe Calendar participants in July. It will be a very exciting time for us.”
The event also will include a cake in the shape of a red high heel, created by Maria Cuevas of Maria Makes Cakes. Organizers hope the cake will be a contender for a Guinness World Record.
“This is my first year of involvement; however, I am very impressed with the amount of effort and desire they have in bringing attention to the domestic violence problem in our area,” Cuevas said.
Lawrence resident Ellen Young, who is assisting with the race and 5K, became involved with the Willow Center through a business relationship with Terwelp that developed into a friendship.
“We would frequently discuss the issue of domestic violence,” Young said. “In my other life, prior to being happily married to my late husband for 23 years, I was a victim of domestic abuse. At the time, it was not as public an issue as it has become.
“It is important for victims of domestic abuse to have a safe place to go, where they can also receive financial help, assistance dealing with the courts and people who can help them make financial decisions,” she said. “The Willow Center is a place that can help them re-enter mainstream society.”