Hundreds wore their funkiest pairs of shoes in support of Walk a Mile in Their Shoes.
The annual fundraiser is a partnership between the YWCA Muskoka and Muskoka Pride. It was held in Memorial Park in downtown Bracebridge on Sunday afternoon. Participants walked a one-mile route around the park before enjoying a barbeque lunch provided by the Bracebridge Lions Club.
Parry Sound-Muskoka MP Scott Aitchison, Gravenhurst Mayor Heidi Lorenz, and Bracebridge Coun. Tatiana Sutherland and Andrew Struthers were some of the dignitaries on hand. Even members of the Ontario Provincial Police showed up, each wearing a pair of shoes covered in red duct tape.
Amy Jones, Director of Youth Services for YWCA Muskoka, says the money raised will go to support the YWCA and Pride’s youth campaigns. “Gender-based violence prevention is really important in our youth programs,” she says.
Shawn Forth, Secretary for Pride, says they hold a monthly youth group for those who identify as 2SLGBTQI+ and allies at the Bracebridge United Church and help to fund multiple projects done by Gay-Straight Alliances at schools in the area.
Jones says the YWCA will use the money to improve Girlz Unplugged, a program they have offered for close to two decades, Girlz Choice, Quest, and Youth Co-Unite. “We focus on many things that are fun and have really important discussions about boundaries and healthy relationships,” she explains. “We talk about being our authentic self and just discovering who that is through programs and your peers.”
Forth says it’s important for the community to be supportive of each other. “Visibility is really important to really silence those really small, but vocal minority of individuals who want to pull back and diminish the rights we have in Canada,” he continues.
Jones says gender-based violence can take many forms. “We all know somebody or are somebody who has experienced it,” she says.
For youth, Jones explains it can be them getting unwanted attention because of their physical appearance, not feeling comfortable going to school because they don’t feel like they can be themselves, being bullied at school or online, or others not respecting their chosen pronouns or name.
As of Monday morning, $10,190 has been raised for the fundraiser against a goal of $30,000.
Also, $130 was raised by some Gravenhurst High School students who, joined by their teacher Aimée Bulloch Moore, sold various pride-related pins and pictures during the event. She says all the money will go to support the fundraiser.