March a Mile in Another's Shoes
The event was scheduled to be outside. The forecast predicted a high temperature of 40 degrees. Our agency had one table, and a lot of odds and ends that would take flight if the wind even thought of whistling. I packed some paperweights, and pondered props to keep the whole assembly from kiting off into the Spring weather. The skies only drizzled halfheartedly, but maintained the gray curtain overhead as a threat.
Upon arrival to the Culpeper Baptist church, the event coordinators announced that they had wisely decided to set up inside! Every vendor released the wrinkle our brows held that had been devoted to the knowledge that we would be standing outside for 4 hours in 40 degrees.
Despite the grey day, the event was a success! Community members came at a steady pace and participated in the trivia raffle. The rules were simple; answer a trivia question about transportation in our community, fill out the contact information on the back, and put it into a bag that corresponded with the prize you would like to win. The prizes were all locally chosen. We were able to purchase some of the prizes but some were generously donated like the local honey and Australian honey from La Bee da Loca, and the "Homemade Ice Cream" sign from Scoop, the new ice cream shop on East Davis Street. Our theme was "Going Local," and what better way to get people excited about transportation in Culpeper than to provide free prizes to local stores and events! See slideshow below to view all of the prizes!
Midway through the event, the majority of the vendors and many local community members gathered to honor the intent of the event: "March in March." As we gathered to walk through our beloved Culpeper, the skies became a little more serious, and started sprinkling in earnest. Luckily, RRCommute (www.rrcommute.org) had encouraged me to bring along several boxes of promotional items. One of the boxes happened to be a box of tan UMBRELLAS! Thank you Kristin Lam for your foresight!
Only about 100 feet from the building, the intent of the March became clear. There was a 1.5 inch raised block of uneven concrete as we exited the parking lot of the Culpeper Baptist Church. I would never have noticed it, but Keith Kessler, chairman of the Culpeper County Disability Services Advisory Committee wheeled up to it, and it gave him a jolt as he wheeled over it with great gusto. In an article ("Increasing Awareness of Disabled Community" published on 3/17/18 written by Alison Brophy of the Star Exponent) Mr. Kessler, who organized the event, was quoted as saying, “It’s a walk to support disability and accessibility. To highlight the issues in town, to be visible – for people to know we’re here and not to be forgotten.” Mission accomplished. Uneven concrete will never seem innocuous again.
About 28 people with balloons and signs and a few service dogs marched up the street next to the back of the movie theater and down mainstreet. Again, an epiphany as I observed for the first time how steep the grade on Main Street is as I watched the effort of the people using mobility aids.
Yes, the "March in March" did accomplish it's mission. The raised concrete raised awareness and the steep grade helped many to lean in a bit and begin to view mobility challenges as something that can be overcome eventually. Especially, if we all start by walking a mile in community.