Once again I am participating in the Schuylkill County SARCC, Sexual Assault Resource and Counseling Center, Walk A Mile In Her Shoes Program. It is an interesting and funny fund raiser for a very serious problem. My old friend George Moyer and I were the two highest fund raisers in 2011. This year we decided to team up. We figured if the two highest 2011 supporters worked together we could really help make a difference so "TEAM TOGA" was formed.
Since I am a blind wood worker, I made this interesting funny video for SARCC. I based it on last year's theam. Watch Lenny cutting wood video file on YouTube
In the video I was wearing a Grizzly Tools apron. I put eye protection on and took a piece of wood. I cut it with a sliding miter saw. Then the camera moved down towards my feet. I was wearing red high heels about 2 inches high. Then I walked over to my table saw. I powered up the saw and cut the piece of wood in half.
I purchased those red heels at the Salvation Army’s thrift store for $1.00. I was hoping to use them for the SARCC video. Unfortunately they were old and the heel started to crack, making them unsafe to use.
The 2012 SARCC commercial was made to the music of Footloose. About 30 men participated in the production of the video. Watch the 2012 Footloose video file on YouTube
There is a short segment of me dancing with my Freedom Guide Dog. We all had a good time with the production. One of the women helping out noted that there was a lot of smiles and joking at the beginning but very little at the end. After about 4 hours of jumping around in those heels all of our feet hurt. I never understood hearing women saying that they cannot wait until they could take their shoes off. Ladies, I could not wait until the filming was over so I could take those shoes off. I was wearing a borrowed pair of royal blue shoes with 2 inch heels and Toga was wearing pink dog boots. She also had a sign on her harness that had SARCC in red letters, walk a mile in black and in her shoes in pink. I also had a blue bow on her harness that matched my shoes.
My pastor serves two churches, Trinity UCC in Pottsville and Faith Reformed UCC in Landing Ville. I talked to him to see if I could speak to the Landingville group on Sunday, March 18. He really liked the idea. I told him that I was not sure if I would have the nerve to wear the heels to the service. I decided to do it for the shock factor. I most likely will do a similar presentation for the Pottsville, Trinity UCC as well on Sunday, March 25.
When arriving in the parking lot, some ladies started to laugh. I yelled asking them if they liked my new footwear. I also had Toga’s harness sign and blue bow on her. Before the service started Pastor Jim came back to see if I did have the shoes on. He was pleased that I wore them. Wearing shorts really brought attention to the shoes. Unfortunately, I did not have Toga’s pink boots on her. I did have her walk a mile sign and a blue bow that matched my shoes on her harness.
This is the presentation: Last year at the church picnic, a woman asked me if I really wore heels for the walk. I hope this answers her question. The Sexual Assault Resource and Counseling Center has an awareness and fund raising program called walk a mile in her shoes. Last year about 100 guys walked wearing ladies shoes.
Each year there between 500 and 600 reported cases right here in Schuylkill County. The youngest was a few months old and the oldest eighty. I am looking for some supporters or better yet more guys to join in. Are there any more guys here man enough to walk a mile in their shoes?
Last year one woman that I met really inspired me to do the walk. About 15 years ago there was a home break in and she was raped with her small kids in the house. Fifteen years later her husband cannot drive through that borough and when she has a bad days she still goes out to SARCC for some counseling. Obviously the attack never leaves them. It really gives me a sense of pride to be able to help these victims
. I printed a few copies of the story on how I became involved. I also have it posted on my web page and links to both the SARCC video and a short one that I made using power tools while wearing red heels. I will leave the stories some cards with my web address and a few registration forms if anyone would like to join in the walk.
I can put all of you ladies into one of two groups, those who wear high heels and those that do not. For those who do not, if I can walk in these two inch heels you can. Now for those who do, why do you do something so stupid, these are the most uncomfortable shoes I have ever worn and do not even get me started on the nylons. I always hear women saying that they cannot wait until they get home to get Those shoes off. Ladies, I really cannot wait until I get home to get these shoes off. Pastor Jim, thank you for giving me these few minutes to tell my story.
During the first part of my talk you could tell that everyone was a little emotionally touched. You should have heard the laughter when I started on the group of women who wear heels. Pastor Jim then thanked me. Walking back there were a few complements about my legs.
A little later in the service there is a Joy and Concern section where people needing prayer are mentioned. At that time I added all of the victims of sexual violence both past and future. By the time this service is over another 30 individuals across this country will be sexually assaulted. Pastor Jim added a comment to this prayer request.
At the end of the service, before anyone left, Pastor Jim placed some money in a plate. Many others followed his lead as they were leaving. One woman told Karen that she is getting shoes for her husband to wear.
The following Sunday, I presented the same program at my church, Trinity UCC, Pottsville. Between the two churches I collected a considerable amount for SARCC.
Photograph of Lenny and Freedom Guide Dog Toga at Faith Reformed United Church of Christ.
TEAM TOGA ROCKS!
< Pphotograph: Team Toga in 2012 walk. George Moyer left and Lenny and Toga right, carrying a banner that reads “walk a mile in her shoes” leading the Sexual Assault Counseling Center fund and awareness walk.
Team Toga collected a final grand total of $3,382. George and I put in countless hours requesting sponsors for this cause. The work really was worth it. No other team even came close. It was quite rewarding to be able to help the victims of sexualt assault.
George and I want to thank everyone who supported us with this effort. It is amazing what can be accomplished when you put your heart and into a cause. I really want to thank George for suggesting that Team Toga to be formed. Last year we were the two top fundraisers and it was his idea for us to team up this year. Trying to come up for a name he suggested using my Freedom Guide Dog’s name, Toga. I thought it was a wonderful idea then as I usually joked saying “that is perfect; after all she is good at leading the blind”.
Again this year George and I were the two top individual fund raisers. George's total was $1,171 and I was able to secure $2,211. I really hope that some individual and team will surpass our totals in next years event.
I was truly honored to have the following 2011 story published in both a national and international publications. The American Council of the blind published it in the April 2012 Braille Forum and Guide Dog Users International published it in the summer 2011 Pawtracks. They published it not only to raise awareness of sexual assaults but to show that blind individuals can become very active in community events.
Here is the story on how and why I became involved with SARCC:
Before I became a guide dog user I thought that it was impractical to participate in a charity walk as a cane traveler. After receiving my first Freedom Guide Dog, I thought it would be nice to participate in a charity fund raising walk. I usually learned about them after the fact or could not make arrangements to attend. A few weeks ago there was a news article about an interesting charity walk that will take place on Thursday, April 28, 2011.
It was to support the SARCC, The Sexual Assault Resource & Counseling Center of Schuylkill County. The program was named, Walk A Mile In Her Shoes, where men would wear women’s high heel shoes. Since it was to be held downtown, Pottsville, and not a very long walk, I was sure it would be an event in which I would be able to participate using a guide dog. Before I contacted SARCC, I went to the experts. I sent an email to the mailing list for Guide Dog Users, Inc. with the subject of a question for the ladies. The question was, do you ever wear high heels while working a guide dog? And explained the event. The responses were actually equally split. Half of the ladies told me no and gave several reasons why one should not, the other group gave me a lot of tips. The first one that really got my attention was No! No! No! spike heels. About ten years ago a spike heel was put through a guide dog’s foot. Other heeded advice was nothing over two inches high. High heels were described as evil and can hype up your dog. I was told that you don’t want to be drug down the street wearing very high heels. One other very valuable piece of information was to actually get out and work the dog before the event. Since my gait would be different, Toga had to learn walking with me in my new clicking shoes.
Funny, after walking in the house for a few days to try and learn how to balance with these very noisy shoes, I migrated to the back alley. Did this late at night when no one was around. My wife walked with me and could not stop from laughing. It is amazing how loud they are when you are trying to sneak around. I felt like a cat prowler in high heels.
It was quite humorous trying to find a pair of women’s shoes. I visited several shoe stores. Can only imagine the looks when I was trying on high heels. Even prior to this I posted a message on a local free cycle list looking for ladies size 9m shoes not spikes and no more than two inch heels. I also explained why I wanted them. I did not receive any offer for shoes however I did receive this very touching note:
Hi Lenny ~ How are you? I don't have any women's shoes for you, but I want to say how much I appreciate your participating in the walk. The video for this event is so wonderfully clever, I posted it wherever I could. It did my heart good to see so many men speak up and stand up for women. Years ago, my daughters and I were helped by a similar organization in another state. It was transformative and saved us. We marched in an event to raise awareness of the epidemic of violence against women, and one of the speakers said something that made my spirit sink. She said that until men of goodwill speak out, this trend will continue. I thought at the time, "Then we are forever preaching to the choir. It will never change. Men stick together. They cover for each other and never talk about this. The good guys are too mild mannered to confront this." My girls were 5 and 6 at the time and my hope for their future was dimmed. I looked at the little boys in their classes and wondered who among them would be the next generation of abusive men. Now, more than 20 years later, the day has come where real men are not just taking that stand, but are doing it in a very public, creative and positive way. That is amazing! And it's happening right here! I hope I get to meet you. I'm proud of you and very grateful. Hugs (name withheld)
Later, when I contacted the staff at the local SARCC office and told them my interest in the program they were very pleased. I made a few nice friends out there. Anyway, I decided that I would have to raise a minimum of $100 for me to humiliate myself. The first day I had $45 and one real horror story. A woman who I have only known for a few months thanked me for doing this. She then told me her tragic story. About fifteen years ago with her small kids in the house, there was a home break in and she was raped . I came out with watering eyes and decided then to do it no matter what I collected. I then met a third woman with another horrifying story who is currently using the local SARCC services. Now I was really motivated. I decided that not only will I participate but I wanted to be the highest fund raiser. I ended up being the highest fund raiser with a total of $1,354. I accomplished that in a little over three weeks.
The walk was more fun than I could ever imagine. There were a total of 95 registered walkers. Before the walk actually started there were a few speakers. They ended up mentioning the top fund raisers. I really did not think that I met my goal. So many people that I contacted told me that George Moyer, an old friend, was already there. I kept doing my best to get pledges. They announced my friend as receiving $806 in pledges. That is when I knew that I met my goal. The crowd of walkers and family supporters went wild when they said my name with a total of $1,344. I did collect another $10 after the event. There was a bag pipe player and George and I were to be right up front. I sensed that Toga, my Freedom Guide Dog was a little uncomfortable with the pipes and did not hear all of my commands so I backed off. That caused me not to get my picture in the paper with George.
At Maroon’s sports bar there was a nice party for everyone. Each registered walker received a ticket for a drink. There was a lot of food provided for everyone who walked including family supporters. Then they had three awards. One for the best poised, ugliest shoes and grand prize. I had no idea that I would win for the best poised. For the prize it was a beautiful Pandora bracelet with a charm of a woman’s high heel. Karen left me wear it for about an hour to show people. That bracelet is now hers and I know that she will always treasure it. I really must credit Freedom Guide Dogs trainer and Toga for me being poised while walking. When working Toga I am very aware of my posture. During training with my first guide my posture was corrected several times.
Now for my shoes. They were described as yellow peep toe pumps with a one and a half inch heel and a cute bow. Even before the walk some neighbor girls thought that they were very cute. My wife, Karen, did a fantastic job of dressing them up. She carefully stuck iridescent rhinestones around the shoe and on the yellow bow across the front. They looked so professional that some girls later asked me where I purchased them. Karen also took some yellow ribbon that matched Toga’s bow. She carefully tied it around my ankle then secured more iridescent rhinestones to it, making a very sparkling ankle bracelet. Sure did get a lot of complements on that piece. For Toga, I had a nice yellow bow on her harness and a sign that I made on the computer. The first line was SARCC in large red letters. The next line in a little smaller black letter was WALK A MILE;. The third line in pink was IN HER SHOES. Now since Toga was all decked out she had to have her toe nails painted and since I was wearing open toe shoes I needed to match her. Karen’s hair dresser had a suggestion and lent me some polish. It was a bright pink/red and then a top coat of a gold shimmer.
I will forever be grateful to some special friends who made some large donations. Sheila Styron, a super friend on the guide dog list that when she read what I was doing, she sent a very generous $50 donation to me for the cause.
Another very special friend Rev. Marianne Unger wanted to see some pictures. When we emailed her the photos she was laughing and told me that she is sending $100 for SARCC. She went on to say that when she sees a video another $100 will be sent to Freedom Guide Dogs. I could never adequately express my thanks for her generosity and friendship. My physician, Dr. Phillip Tobash, was really laughing when I told him about me participating in the project. He then wrote a check for $100 to see me walk in women’s high heels.
I received this email from another good friend, Krista Klinger:
Hi Lenny, What a great cause. I admire you and every man that takes on the challenge. You can count me in for $50.00. I'm not sure if you have the video that's out there to promote this fundraiser. See attached, it's a hoot! You may be able to use it to stir up more donations.
Talking to some of the SARCC staff members when leaving Maroon's, I told them that if I were to do this next year I could never reach that dollar amount again. I was promptly corrected with them saying that “if” is not part of that statement… Well, I now know that they are correct. While writing this I contacted George to make sure I could use his name and photograph. I did not realize that they also had teams walking. On his suggestion what would make a better team? Two old friends who were the top fund raisers for the first annual walk. Sure hope that I do not have to start looking for new shoes. I do believe that most women would not wear the same outfit to repeating events. Karen just may have to make room in her closet for my new sexy shoes. All joking aside, I am grateful to everyone who made a pledge. All of the funds that I collected will stay right here in Schuylkill County. Schuylkill County is not a very big county and has between five and six hundred reported cases every year. Also the original thought of embarrassment or humiliation very quickly changed to a wonderful sense of pride. I sure hope that my little part will help to make a difference.
Here is one final thought sent to me from Krista Klinger:
Isn't it amazing how one act (ie: your intention to try to raise $100 for the cause) has such a ripple effect? These two quotes come to mind...
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” ~ Margaret Mead
Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope... and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance. ~Robert F. Kennedy
Here is a link to a very funny video for the introduction to the Walk A Mile In Her Shoes project. It shows men doing different things while wearing ladies high heels. There is someone out hunting, guys doing karate and generally sitting and walking around. It is quite humorous!
Watch the video file on YouTube
Photograph of Lenny, wife Karen, and Freedom Guide Dog Toga.
Photograph of Lenny and friend George Moyer. George is wearing ladies size 15 red go go boots.
Photograph of Lenny’s shoes and Toga
Photograph of Lenny walking at night. Here you can really see his shoes sparkle.
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