COVID gives the boot to annual fundraiser to benefit victims of domestic abuse  

  • Concord Police Detective Dana Dexter leaves the podium after addressing the crowd before the annual Walk A Mile in Her Shoes event at City Plaza in front of the State House on Wednesday, October 2, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER

  • Bill Fitzgerald shows off his socks and shoes while Tuukka the puppy hangs out before the annual Walk A Mile in Her Shoes event at the plaza in front of the State House on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor file

  • Grappone Auto team member Adam Memmolo of Warner wears a pair of pink boots decorated with an American flag during Walk a Mile in Her Shoes in downtown Concord on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz

  • The first annual Walk A Mile In Her Shoes event to raise money and awareness for domestic and sexual violence drew a hearty crowd despite steady drizzle Wednesday afternoon. Our personal favorites were David Canfield’s Duct Tape job (facing page, top right) and the seven-inch heels donned by Concord Police officer Dan Dexter (this page, bottom right).

  • The first annual Walk A Mile In Her Shoes event to raise money and awareness for domestic and sexual violence drew a hearty crowd despite steady drizzle Wednesday afternoon. Our personal favorites were David Canfield’s Duct Tape job (facing page, top right) and the seven-inch heels donned by Concord Police officer Dan Dexter (this page, bottom right).

Monitor columnist
Published: 9/25/2020 2:07:27 PM

Over the past six years, always on the first Wednesday each October, no heel was high enough to topple any of the police officers as they clip-clopped along Main Street to raise money to fight domestic violence.

They steadied themselves, on really high heels. Like the ones worn last year by Concord Police Detective Dana Dexter, whose leather-strapped boots reached above his knees, and whose stilettos would have scared the lead guitarist from Kiss.

But like so many other areas of life, COVID-19 packed enough of a wallop to knock hundreds of officers, mostly from Concord, Bow and Pembroke, off their platforms, canceling this year’s Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event, the main fundraising arm for the Crisis Center of New Hampshire.

It’s a major blow to a network that provides shelter and safety to victims of domestic violence. Last year, the cops who walked a mile in high heels, from the State House and on down Main Street, raised $60,000 for the cause.

So while the event brings laughter to downtown, its cancelation is certainly no laughing matter.

“Obviously a huge impact on the organization,” said Debbie Johnson, the director of development for the Crisis Center of New Hampshire, the  walk’s organizer. “We had to make a tough decision, but we moved forward with it.”

Planning for the 2020 version began at the start of the year and ended two months later, as the coronavirus took hold and people began to realize that something was up.

Zoom meetings replaced in-person gatherings. Officials considered some type of visual set-up for Walk a Mile, but chose against it.

“We’re about coming together as a community to fight against domestic violence,” Johnson told me. “It’s not something you can just recreate virtually. We could have asked people to put on heels and walk around neighborhoods, but that does not have the same feel.”

The decision to cancel came down earlier this month. No one wanted to laugh. Not this time, in this year. Johnson said the walk created “no traction.”

She lamented that the coronavirus cares not for fundraising, or domestic violence, or Dexter’s sky-high boots, or the spirit in a small city.

Then she moved to data. Alarming data.

First off, it’s been widely reported that cases of domestic violence have skyrocketed since the pandemic. More couples together for longer periods of time, apparently, can be a recipe for disaster, although the severity of the problem did not surface right away.

“Not at first,” Johnson said. “Then it ballooned from there. At the start people were stuck at home and they really did not have the ability to call or go on to our website. But as restrictions loosened, there were huge increases in the volume, and we saw an increase in the seriousness of the abuse as well.”

She poured through more data. Last year, the shelter helped 48 individuals and families, providing 3,102 bed nights for them. This year, the crisis center has already helped 41 people, providing 2,165 bed nights, and that’s only through July and does not include the individuals or families who have been housed at area hotels.

“As you can imagine,” Johnson said, “We canceled our event, but domestic violence has not been canceled at this time.”

She’s hopeful, though. To replace the money lost this year, the organization plans to take full advantage of October, which happens to be Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Johnson said the CCNH, as usual, will seek donations to help fund its biggest annual problem.

“We fundraise around the shelter, and it is always at capacity, and that is our biggest need,” Johnson said.

To help, Johnson said the CCNH will seek sponsorships, commercial or individual, to defray the thousands of dollars needed for expansion, furniture, bedding, hotels and everything else on the bill.

“We’ll be asking them to adopt a room at the shelter,” Johnson said, “and it becomes their own room, per se, and they have their name on a plaque outside the room and it helps us with support.”

She said three sponsors are due to step up soon, and she mentioned her appreciation for local support. She mentioned the irony here, that COVID-19, with all the misery it brings, is at least pushing the issue of domestic violence further into the sunlight.

And she said this would have been her first Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event since taking the job earlier this year. She’s figures she can go next year.

She had already received a scouting report on the bizarre visuals before the event was canceled, and in fact learned that awards were given out. For best team name, most money raised and the obvious.

“Detective Dexter is known for this,” Johnson said. “He wins for best shoes.”




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