For the past 40 years, Heartly House has worked to bring awareness about child abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence and human trafficking from behind closed doors and into the public sphere.
On Saturday, it will continue to raise awareness as Heartly House sponsors its annual Walk a Mile in Their Shoes event.
The walk started as a Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, an event that brought awareness to sexual assault against women with men donning high heels. But as domestic violence and sexual assault can happen to anyone, Heartly House changed it to Walk a Mile in Their Shoes, said executive director Inga James.
“So we kind of laugh and say the correct footwear is a red high top Chuck [Taylor],” James said.
And some members of Heartly House have their red Chucks ready for the walk. But people can wear any footwear to participate. The walk will go from Carroll Creek up Market Street to Fourth Street and loop back down Market, James said.
“We’re a big crowd, so people notice us,” she said.
This year, for the nonprofit’s 40th anniversary, there will be a concert in the Carroll Creek Amphitheater after the walk.
People can sign up for the walk — registration costs $40 — the day of the walk. Registration includes admission to the concert. Those who only want to attend the concert can pay $5. Concert acts include Chloe Antulov, Luna and the Freddie Long Band.
So far, 140 people are signed up, but James expects there will be 170 walkers by Saturday.
The walk is a chance for the nonprofit to educate people about its services, said Jenn Tousey, community outreach and prevention manager. People still associate Heartly House as a battered women’s shelter, she said, but the organization provides many more services, including counseling and legal help.
“Heartly House has been in Frederick for 40 years, and most people I talk to have heard about Heartly House, but they don’t fully understand what we do,” she said.
The walk has become a Frederick tradition, Tousey said. This year, the organizers looked to reinvigorate the event, to get people excited about it and attract new people to it.
The walk and the concert will draw people to learn more about the services Heartly House offers, but it also gives people a chance to start a conversation with their families about harder topics. It allows people to talk with their children, while educating and empowering themselves, she said.
There will be survivors who speak at the event, but their remarks will be family-friendly, Tousey said.
And for those affected by domestic violence and sexual assault, the event shows that the community is behind them, James said.
“Because domestic violence and sexual assault happens to so many people, most people know somebody, whether it’s in their family or their friend group, who has been a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault,” she said.