Gavilan College Student Vets of America hit the streets in drag in downtown Hollister on Saturday, April 28 to benefit Emmaus House and Community Solutions Programs supporting victims of domestic violence.
The students were among 175 volunteers and walkers to “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes.”
Ray Lopez, a Gavilan nursing student and one of the founders of the Gavilan College Student Vets of America, said the group began participating in the benefit three years ago.
Saturday’s walkers raised more than $10,000 for Emmaus House and Community Solutions Programs, who have partnered or six years to lead fundraising walk-a-thon.
Community Solutions program manager Erica Elliot said her agency serves survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and human trafficking and works along with Emmaus House who operates shelter for women and children.
“We provide free crisis intervention, case management and advocacy services,” said Elliot.
Elliot said too few people realize just how many are impacted by sexual assault and domestic. “One in three women will be impacted by domestic violence in their lifetime and in California there are more than 2 million survivors of rape,” she said.
The event has two aims, said Elliot.
“One is raise awareness around issues and how much it happens within our county and the second is an opportunity for the community to get involved and stand together to show that sexual violence is not OK,” she said. “And we’re all here to work together to end it.”
Patrice Kushner, the executive director with Emmaus House said they were particularly proud at the level of youth involvement in this year’s event.
“Twenty-one members of the Hollister Haybalers football team walked this year’s event in a show of support to stop the violence and abuse,” said Kushner.
So, the heels, while not so comfortable to walk a mile in for those unaccustomed to it is one thing, but why dress in drag to walk for charity? Lopez said after Gavilan College Student Vets of America settled on the specific charity, “it got out of hand from there.”
“In order to encourage everyone to raise money and participate we designed ‘level-up’ opportunities up until the $3,000 mark,” he said. “When we’d get out in full drag.”
Lopez has made a life of giving back to the community, a Marine Corp veteran who served in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, will be is graduating May 25 from the LVN program after which he plans to pursue the RN program with Gavilan.
“It’s a good cause,” Lopez said. “There’s so much ugliness in the world today if we can do one little bit just to help out something good—I think it’s more therapeutic for us. We know what we’re doing it for. We have fun with it but we know the seriousness behind it.”