Men and women of all ages strutted in their best stilettos to change the lives of LGBTQ refuges in the first annual Strut For Hope at Sunset Beach on Saturday, June. 6.
The 2015 Strut For Hope showcased some of Vancouver’s finest high-heel jaw-dropping creations to raise money and some much needed awareness about a problem that affects the LGBTQ community worldwide.
With positive and sassy attitudes the participants started strutting their stilettos along the seawall from Sunset Beach to the Inukshuk sculpture and back. Many cyclists, passersby and tourists were surprised to see the large group colourful and fabulous participants and stopped to take photos and cheer them on.
Many individuals and a significant number of teams ditched their sneakers and strapped on high heels to participate in the event, among them; The Lumbersexuals, the Vancouver Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Chica’s, Handsome in Heels, Mr. Big and the Good Wives, Klein Lawyers, The First-timers, Lifting Soles Patrol, Arco Iris, Pride in Paradise, Vancouver Frontrunners, City Wide Strutters, Radical Faeries, Birch Please! , the Vancouver Infectious Diseases Centre Struts and many more.
The pump-sporting event organized by The Foundation of Hope aimed to reach the goal of $30,000 to fund grants to Canadian organizations supporting LGBTQ refugees, but the success of the strut exceeded any expectations by raising more than $44,000.
The funds will go towards badly needed services for LGBTQ people, from countries where they are being persecuted, to assist their immigration to Canada and to be fully integrated into Canadian life.
The celebration began with music from the Afrobeat Group Kara-Kata, followed by several speeches from organizers and special guests.
“The fact that we in Canada can sit here in stilettos and not fear for our lives or that we ‘are going to be killed or have to leave and go to a consulate because we are in danger… It’s such a privileged” said Carl Meadows, board member of The Foundation of Hope.
Gambian refugee Moe Sonko talked about his struggle with discrimination and persecution. “Growing up I felt very alone, I had no friends, I could not leave my house without people calling me all kind of names, throwing stones at me, trying to pick a fight because I was a weak boy. .. I decided to put my face on the media because if I can change one kid’s live, who fell these things that I was dealing, If I can me him feel comfortable in their own skin, then I will not shut up.”
Founder, Past President at the Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health Dr. Hasan Abdessamad said: “Canada loved me like a parent, Canada hugged and welcome me and was very generous to me… I recently became Canadian, January 2015, and what used to be hope before, now is a privilege. I’m enjoying my life now and I aspire to give this to every single refugee and newcomer that is coming to Canada.”
Montenegro’s first openly gay man Zdravko Cimbaljevic, who’s now a Board member of Rainbow Refugee said: “We are not here to abuse the system; we are here to escape for our lives and to find our future. We’re coming here to offer you our diversity.”
During the event a member of The Vancouver Timberline Dance Society presented a large check of $1,000 donation.
Prizes were awarded for ‘Best Heels’, ‘Most Jewelled Heels, ‘Highest Heels’ and ‘The Best Team’. The winners received a variety of gift certificates from the event’s sponsors. Other prizes were handed out to organizers and individuals who raised the largest amount of donations. All participants were given a bag of gifts and a lot of band-aids to cover those ankle wounds.
The Strut For Hope encouraged businesses around Vancouver city to sponsor, organize volunteer teams and donate prizes.
The Foundation of Hope is a charity providing financial assistance to non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) actively supporting LGBTQ refugees and newcomers. Operated by a working board of volunteers, this foundation is the first of its kind in Canada and possibly the world. The Foundation of Hope originated as a group of individuals who co-sponsored two gay Syrian refugees living in Beirut, Lebanon. Through the Foundation’s hard work, the pair has since immigrated to Canada and become permanent residents under resettlement.
To support for LGBTQ refugees please visit The Foundation of Hope