SafeWalk: Women’s Center to receive steps of support Sunday

SafeWalk — a demonstration of community solidarity against domestic violence in all its forms, and a fund-raiser for the regional Women’s Center — is expected to draw a wide range of Ridgefielders including a contingent from Jesse Lee Methodist Church and the entire Ridgefield High School football team marching with their mothers.

“We had 1,000 last year and we’re expecting more this year,” said Kathy Graham of Fairfield County Bank, a co-chair of SafeWalk and a member of the Women’s Center of Greater Danbury advisory board.

“We want to own our values, that domestic violence is wrong, and raise money for Women’s Center,” said Pastor Bill Pfohl of Ridgefield’s Jesse Lee Methodist Church.

“We have four services on a Sunday and we’ve canceled all the services that would meet at the same time the SafeWalk is happening. We’ll have our 8 o’clock service, and 9, 10 and 11 o’clock services are canceled.”

The 10th annual SafeWalk is Sunday, Oct. 1, in Danbury Fair Mall.

Registration is at 8:30. At 9:15, there’s an opening address by Pat Zachman, executive director of the Women’s Center. The walking starts at 9:30 and closing activities are scheduled for 10:15.

The theme is: “Safe at home, school and everywhere in between.”

Many Ridgefielders participate as teams: Ridgefield Chorale, Rotary, Fairfield County Bank, teams of friends, neighbors — at least 22.

To register a team, or join one, go to www.wcgd.org or call 203-731-5200.

Concerning sponsorships, call Women Center’s special events coordinator Kelly Parker: 203-731-5200 ext. 232.

“Domestic violence is a part of and impacts every community. This is, unfortunately, a intercultural, equal-opportunity vice,” said Jesse Lee’s Pastor Pfohl.

“We’ll have a dinner and communion service in the evening, it starts at 5 o’clock and it will be more informal. We’ll meet in our Martin Hall, and it will be kind of a family-style experience.”

The dinner and service are open to all.

“Anybody who wants to draw closer to God and live in love and fellowship with their neighbor is welcome at the Lord’s table,” Pfohl said.

RHS football is all-in.

“This is the fourth year that moms and players have been involved,” said Elizabeth Isaacson, president of the football booster club, who works for the women’s center and will walk with her two sons. “There’s around 90 players total, and the moms march with them — my guess is we’ll have about 140 participants.”

“They were the first athletes to participate,” said Graham, “and that’s gotten other high schools involved.”

SafeWalk now includes teams from Danbury, New Milford, Wooster School, Canterbury School and Ridgefield Academy

“Last year, Danbury High School brought 300 athletes and the marching band, and this year their goal is to bring 500,” Graham said.

Danbury High’s team captains are organizing participation.

“We set it up as teams,” said Danbury Athletics Director Chip Salvestrini, who grew up in Ridgefield and lives in town today. “They can have groups, their parents can walk with them, whatever they feel comfortable to do.

“You hope it equates to more money. What we’re trying to teach is giving back to the community, doing things for other people.”

Some athletes also do volunteer hours at the women’s center. And Danbury High School has had Women’s Center speakers.

“We’re really taking it to a level that we feel will benefit our kids in the long run, and of course the Women’s Center,” Salvestrini said.

“October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, so this is normally the kick-off for a series of events that the Women’s Center runs,” said Isaacson.

“All the money goes towards the Women’s Center of Greater Danbury, which serves 26,000 men, women and children annually from 13 Danbury area towns,” said Graham.

SafeWalk is also educational.

“It addresses healthy relationships, anti-bullying. The walk is a great opportunity to have a conversation with your child that you may not otherwise have,” said Kara Conn, co-chair of the event. “…What healthy relationships should look like, what they shouldn’t look like — and that there’s always help. It opens up the communication lines between families.”

“It’s just escalated,” added Graham. “…Not just bullying but cyberbullying. I think sometimes people say on the internet things they wouldn’t say to someone’s face. We want to emphasize: Kindness matters.”

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