A Hollywood actor with Manitoba roots is walking from Winkler to Winnipeg to raise awareness about domestic abuse.
Steve Braun, whose biggest movie credit came in 2004's Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, says his family history inspired him to walk the 157 kilometres, raising money and speaking to school groups along the way.
In the early 1930s, Braun's great-grandmother was forced to flee her southern Manitoba home. Her husband, an alcoholic, threatened her with a gun. Mary Braun escaped the house, walked 15 kilometres in the snow to a neighbour's house and spent the night.
She was forced to return home the next day.
"It's a story I've heard from time to time from my grandmother, my mother and my aunts," says Braun, 36. "These things ripple through the generations. I think that's why it's so important to talk about it. This lives on in families."
The Sept. 24-29 walk is Braun's third. This year, he's raising money for Genesis House, a Winkler shelter for abused women and their children. He raised several thousand dollars on each of his previous walks.
His walk retraces the steps his great-grandmother took in 1933.
"The point is to do something ridiculous that people will pay attention to. They're wondering why this guy is doing this; maybe they're thinking about the issue. It's more a matter of getting the word out."
He says when he has spoken at schools and gatherings on his previous walks, people have come up and shared their own stories.
"It's 'Hey, you know, my cousin, my aunt, my sister.' Everyone's got a story."
Braun says he wants to engage men in the issue.
"We need to get men to the table. That means having a discussion that doesn't say 'You're awful,' but 'We men have a problem and we need to talk about it.' "
This year, Braun has his Hollywood and Canadian acting friends helping out. His website (walkfortheshelters.com) has a variety of young actors holding signs that read "Abuse Is Not Welcome In My Home."
"I think actors at their best have a level of compassion," he says. "When you're an actor, your whole life is about you. This is good for their art."
Braun spent his early years in Southdale. He moved to Toronto in 1997 to finish university and was bit by the acting bug. Moves to New York and Los Angeles followed.
While he's raising funds for Genesis House, he encourages people to donate to any domestic-abuse shelter.
Speaking at schools is the best part of the journey, he says.
"I think we need to start this discussion young," Braun says. "If you're a woman and you've seen this in your house, you might think this is what love is. If you're a boy, you might think this is what men do. It's so obvious the cycle is continuing."
The walking is tedious, Braun says, but engaging with students is terrific.
"That's satisfying. This walk is really about the conversation."
-- -- --
While we're on the subject of walking, scores of you responded to the story of Kris Doubledee, the Winnipeg Transit driver who gave his shoes to a homeless man. If you want to follow his example, go to the More Than Shoes website (morethanshoes.ca). It's a Winnipeg Harvest initiative that matches schools attended by kids who need shoes and boots with donors. Call Wendy Erlanger at 204-982-3663 if you want to help. Corydon Community Centre is now running a More Than Shoes drive, hoping to get more than 100 pairs of new boots and shoes.
Canadian Footwear, in conjunction with the Free Press, runs the Fit Feet on the Street program. It gets proper footwear on the feet of Manitoba families who can't afford to buy their own. They're looking for new or very gently used winter boots and shoes. You can drop off your donations at any Canadian Footwear location.
Mount Carmel Clinic (886 Main St.) also takes donations of new or used shoes for clients in need.