story and photos by Stephen Carter, special to The City Wire
Ozark Guidance held its fourth annual Walk a Mile in My Shoes sale at Arvest Ballpark in Springdale Friday and Saturday (Jan. 24 and 25). The sale, which benefits, Ozark Guidance, was open to the public.
“110,000 adults and 26,000 children in Northwest Arkansas face a mental health challenge, so it’s a very prevalent, common medical condition that we want people to think about,” said Staci Clinksgales, development and marketing coordinator.
The event name reflects “the path of a person with a mental illness and allows shoppers to think about what their struggles might be,” said Doliza Reyes-Bibbs, program director at Ozark Guidance’s Early Childhood Center. “We want people to be able to learn about the struggles of those with mental illness and that there is a special path that they have to walk.”
More than 3,000 people got involved by either donating shoes, sharing on social media, or coming to shop. Due to popular demand, Ozark Guidance opened the sale on Friday for the first time. Nearly 500 shoppers came to the event within the first two hours.
“We have a lot more people this year who wear a ‘please ask me about our services’ badge. That way, we can be educating people about what we do as they’re shopping,” said Erica Boughfman, director of School Based Services for Washington County. “We want to take away that stigma of seeking our services and let them know that we’re approachable.”
“I’ve seen as an HR professional the impact that mental health challenges can have on the family, whether it’s impacting them at work or at home. Anyone can donate, and we all wear shoes. This event is designed to allow anyone to participate,” said Amiee York, an Ozark Guidance auxiliary member and co-chair of the event.
About 4,000 new and used shoes and purses were donated for the sale. All proceeds from the sale will help support counseling services for children, families and adults.