Fairfield police Chief Gary MacNamara gained a new respect for a significant segment of the population on April 27.

MacNamara was among the men who donned women’s shoes, then walked from the Fairfield Center train station to Fairfield Town Hall as part of Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, raising awareness of violence against women.

This was the first Walk a Mile event held by the Center for Women and Families of Eastern Fairfield County, according to CWF Executive Director Deb Greenwood. Walk a Mile, a national program, has been held in this area, but not by the Center for Women and Families.

It will become an annual event, MacNamara said on the steps of Fairfield Town Hall after the walk, in one of the six towns served by the CWF. They are Bridgeport, Easton, Fairfield, Monroe, Stratford and Trumbull.

Police chiefs and officers from all six towns participated in the Fairfield walk, though not all wore women’s shoes for the walk.

Also in attendance were U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Fairfield First Selectman Michael Tetreau, Easton First Selectman Thomas Herrmann, and four state legislators from Fairfield — Sen. John McKinney, and Reps. Kim Fawcett, Tony Hwang and Brenda Kupchick.

Many different participants

“I’m so excited,” Greenwood said of the presence of police chiefs, police officers, public office holders, state’s attorneys, victims advocates, and court officers walking to show support for survivors of domestic violence.

The opportunity to hold Walk a Mile arose through a grant from Leadership Greater Bridgeport, a program offered by the Bridgeport Regional Business Council. The grant was earmarked toward a local “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes.”

Greenwood credited MacNamara with working since September to help the Fairfield event get on its own two feet.

Shelton resident Daniel Chizmadia of Leadership Greater Bridgeport was among those who participated in the walk.

College fraternity joined the walk

April was chosen for the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes to focus attention on Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Child Abuse Awareness Month. The CWF holds vigils in October to recognize Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Hwang was particularly moved by the number of college students, many of them young men, who marched in an event that started at 9 a.m. on a Saturday.

“Being the parent of a college daughter, I’m way too sensitive to the social dynamics of college and dating, and to have these young men come out is impressive,” Hwang said.

The largest delegation at the event was from the Delta Tau Delta fraternity at Sacred Heart University. Student Joe Giffune said the fraternity’s philanthropy platform is working to eliminate violence against women.

Delta Tau Delta President Kyle Beam said the walk helped kick off the fraternity’s week working to fight violence on campus. Events at SHU include a bonfire, guest speakers and a Dance Dance Revolution competition to raise money for women’s causes.

“Next year we’re hoping to get all of Greek life involved,” Beam said of the walk.

Sandusky victim family’s story

During the post-walk ceremony, Dawn Hennessey shared her story of learning that her son was a victim of sexual molestation at the hands of former Penn State football defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, and her family’s efforts to recover.

Domestic violence survivor Patty Collins read a poem, which Greenwood publicly asked to post on the CWF website, describing the life of a woman trapped in domestic violence.

“Would you have the courage,” Collins asked in the poem, “to walk a mile in her shoes?”

John Kovach is editorial director at Hersam Acorn Newspapers, which includes the Shelton Herald and other newspapers and websites.