by Lenny McHugh
(Editor’s Note: You can read more of Lenny’s work at www.LennyMcHugh.com.)
On April 23, 2015, nearly 100 men walked a mile in high heels to raise funds for the Sexual Assault Resource and Counseling Center, and yes, I was one of them. The walk was called “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes,” and it was designed to bring awareness to the problem of sexual assault.
It is estimated that nationally only 30 percent of all sexual assault cases are reported. Although it is primarily children and women who are victims, many men are also assaulted.
I have been the highest fund-raiser in all of the three walks I’ve done for SARCC, and hoped to be again this year. I requested donations from many friends and some businesses. On Sunday, April 12, I attended two church services wearing shorts, nylons, yellow peep-toe pumps, a T-shirt that reads “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” and my hat that reads “Blind People Feel Better.” Toga, my guide dog, had a “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” sign on her harness and a yellow bow that matched my shoes. She also wore a beaded necklace that complemented her yellow bow.
I always try to add some humor in my presentations. It helps to keep interest. I mentioned that during one of the summer services, Pastor Jim made a funny comment about yellow shoes. I told everyone that there is absolutely nothing wrong with wearing yellow peep-toe pumps, especially for a good cause. I then described my shoes. They are peep-toe with a bow, two-and-a-quarter-inch heels, and have rhinestones placed in a pattern around the shoe and on the bow. I also was wearing a yellow ribbon ankle bracelet with rhinestones. Now, I do not believe that any woman wearing peep-toe pumps would be seen without her toenails painted. So my wife painted my toenails with a bright red and a silver sparkle overlay. I kicked off one of the shoes so they could see Karen’s artwork. Again, there was a lot of laughter and a comment or two about my legs and how nice my foot is shaped. This really had the women laughing.
I then followed that with a few statements that describe me in a nutshell. And they are as follows: Any day that I can make someone laugh is a great day! Any day that I can help someone is a great day! Any day that I can both make someone laugh and also help someone is a perfect day! Today is a perfect day for me!
I then went into the seriousness of sexual assaults and how SARCC helps victims and their families. I briefly told the story about the woman who is my motivation. About 20 years or so ago, she was raped in her home during a break-in while her youngsters were present.
I had to end on a high note. I stated that over the years, while getting ready to go out, I always wondered why it took so long for my wife to get dressed. I told them that I finally understood and could describe it in one word, “pantyhose.” I waited until the laughter stopped before telling them that I had to have my wife help me get those stupid things on. My pastor asked if I was really wearing pantyhose. I told him yes and he asked me not to prove it. I was wearing shorts to flaunt my legs and ankles.
Before going back to my seat, Pastor Jim asked if anyone had any questions for me. It was a little touching that one woman who attended our service for the first time spoke up. She went on to say that she might not be here if she hadn’t gotten away from her ex-husband, because he abused her. I am sure it took a lot of courage for her to speak up. I wonder what she thought when I walked up front wearing those yellow shoes with all the rhinestone bling.
It is so funny to hear the women complain that my legs are nicer than theirs. The woman who was assaulted in her home says, “I do not care, Lenny; from the knees down you are all woman.”
Anyway, it was really worth going to the church services. I collected almost $400 for SARCC.
On Monday, my nails were still painted and friends at the local hospital’s cardiac rehab and balance therapy were trying to help. So I got a pair of my wife’s knee-high stockings. When we arrived at the hospital, I changed shoes before walking into the cardiac rehab center. You should have heard the laughter! While there, I asked them to call one of the supervisors I knew. When she came in, she started laughing again. Then I asked if they knew anyone who would join in the walk. The supervisor tried to talk some hospital employees into joining in the walk. They all agreed that it is a wonderful program.
I exceeded my goal of $2,212 – this year I collected a respectable $2,300. So for the four walks in which I participated, I have collected over $6,000 for SARCC.
During the actual walk, I have a big problem with Toga. Since the walk is like a parade, Toga knows that we belong on the sidewalk. I have a hard time keeping her walking straight in the middle of the roadway. She insists that we need to be over on the sidewalk, and she takes every opportunity to get me off the street to where she feels safe. This year a few people walked next to me to help keep us in the middle of the roadway.
After the walk, we all met for some awards and some non-alcoholic drinks and food. I was given some recognition for collecting over $6,000 for the four walks in which I participated. There was also a special recognition certificate for me being the oldest guy in the walk. I just turned 68 and I still do not know what I want to do when I grow up.
What was especially nice was that Kelly Choate, a reporter from WBRE/WYOU-TV, came down for the walk and to interview me. They took pictures of Toga, my shoes and my hat that reads “Blind People Feel Better.” The reporter asked many questions on why I felt that the walk was so important. She also asked about Toga. The interview was great; it focused on my abilities, not disabilities. You can see and hear the interview at https://youtu.be/eTF9C7Ko__w.
I do hope that this story encourages others with disabilities to become involved in their communities. You will always get more out of it than you put into it. And please, if you suspect that someone is being sexually abused, report it.