The clomping and clicking could be heard up and down Main Street on a sunny Saturday morning as Westminster donned its red heels for the annual Walk a Mile in her Shoes.
Around 200 walkers joined the outing to raise funds and awareness for Rape Crisis Intervention Service in Westminster, each having raised at least $50.
Before they set out from Dutterer Family Park, Madi Serio spoke to the crowd. Serio is the survivor of a kidnapping and rape that occurred on Pennsylvania Avenue in May 2016, who has chosen to speak about the ordeal to help others who have experienced similar assault.
She thanked Saturday’s participants for supporting RCIS, which she said supported her after the incident.
“It makes a difference when people can hear [her speak]” said Carroll County State’s Attorney Brian DeLeonardo. He walked in a red pair of flats with 14 other members of the Carroll County State’s Attorney’s Office.
Janice Kispert, CEO of RCIS, said one of the greatest benefits of the walk, besides raising funds, is that it brings visibility to issues of rape, sexual assault and gender violence.
“Rape is known as a silent epidemic. And people don’t think it happens in Carroll County,” she said.
But that’s not true, she said; RCIS received more than 850 hotline calls in the last financial year.
Some advocated for themselves as survivors during the march.
Jessica Hoops came with friends Ethan Homesley and Joy Zimmar, who, she said, supported her as she walked as a survivor.
Olivia Coeckner formed the walking group No Means Know made up of supportive friends and family.
She said the services from RCIS and Carroll Hospital supported her after she was assaulted in 2014 and, because of that, she was able to graduate school.
“It’s a good opportunity to raise awareness and give back to the place that supported me,” she said of the event.
County officials showed their support, too, including Circuit Court Judge Richard Titus and Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, who donned a pair of demure size 11 flats to support the women in his life.
Several school groups joined the walk as well.
Kevin McLeod, program director of Silver Oak Academy in Kemar, was joined by four students and three staff members. The school participates every year, he said, to support RCIS.
“[Sexual] assault is something that affects kids. It affects young women and young men, too,” he said.
Staff member Jason Wisner was feeling the pain from his heels near the end of the walk, but he pressed on because it was “well worth it” for the cause. The walk, which he participated in for the first time Saturday, had a powerful effect on him because a loved one had experienced sexual assault.
Five members of the Winters Mill High School football team and coach Matt Miller came out to represent at the walk. Miller paired his red stilettos with Lightning McQueen tube socks, while team member Brad Cole chose chunk heels and denim cutoff shorts.
“We’re here to better the name of football players,” Cole said.
Lance and Lisa Christensen walked with the Shimmering Mermaids to support their daughter Kelsey, a community educator with RCIS. She has found great joy being able to help people through the organization, Lisa Christensen said.
Lance Christiansen sported an eye-caching pair of red, pleather, calf-high boots paired with the glittering mermaid hats worn by each team member. He drew a lot of attention on Main Street, but it was all worth it for the cause, he said.
Two other Shimmering Mermaids, Nathan Berch and Cody Griner, were having a tough time with their first outing in heels.
“My toes feel like they’re melting in here,” Griner said.
But they were willing to put up with the blisters.
“It’s all for the cause. And the pizza [at the end],” he joked.
More information about RCIS is available at www.rapecrisiscc.org. Their 24-hour hotline can be reached at 410-857-7322.