Do you know how red shoes became the most popular symbol for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder? Do you know when and why the Red Shoes Rock awareness campaign started?
In 2014 I saw a post on Facebook about an event for FASD that could be done anywhere – all you needed was a pair of red shoes. Having no events in my area for FASD I thought this was a great way to spread awareness. Even though I was walking by myself, I felt part of a larger effort. I’m still rocking my reds all these years later. Come along with me as I take a look back each year at this grassroots movement and see how far it has come!
R.J. Formanek (Canadian) and Jodee Kulp (American) are the co-creators of the movement.
But how did they meet and how did they come up with red shoes?
According to Jodee: R.J. Formanek, an adult with FASD made a purposeful decision to wear red shoes. He wanted to stand out and be noticed. He chose red shoes as a way to express his individuality and remind himself that he is unique. And red shoes get noticed. And when they get noticed, he is able to create opportunities to talk about FASD. Jodee noticed those red shoes one summer when they were at the same event. She asked him about them. And that conversation led to the creation of an FASD awareness campaign called Red Shoes Rock.
R.J. regularly shares his story, insights and wisdom at workshops and conferences. He created a virtual support group on Facebook for adults with FASD: Flying With Broken Wings is a place for adults to share information, and strategies to support each other. Parents, caregivers and professionals can also join to learn about FASD from the experts with lived experience. You can find a link here: FASD on The Web.
I first met R.J. when he and Jeff Noble invited me along for some red shoe shopping a few years ago. I have to say, I was nervous as I was meeting FASD rock stars! But we had so much fun – and made a video!
Check out this sweet little video where R.J. talks about why red shoes 👉🏻👉🏻👉🏻 Red Shoe Shopping with R.J. and Jeff.
Like R.J., Jodee gets asked Why Red Shoes? This is her response:
Because red shoes are noticeable. Red shoes are fun. Red shoes open up the conversation to tell our story or share insight that is needed in the moment. And so I wear my red shoes when I’m going into difficult places, and I can just say, “You see my RED SHOES? Well, those shoes remind me of the needs of FASD, that’s prenatal exposure to alcohol. They remind me right now, the PERSON I LOVE needs support and space and time to regroup. It reminds me right now that I WILL PROTECT that person.” ~ Jodee Kulp (July 4, 2017)
So how did the Red Shoes Rock awareness campaign start and how has it evolved?
2014: Run for life. Rock out FASD.
The original premise for Red Shoes Rock invited people to put on a pair of red shoes and post pictures on social media. The goal was to create an awareness movement for FASD. The inaugural campaign kicked off on August 9, 2014, and ran for 30 days, leading up to International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Awareness Day on September 9, 2014. (More on FASDay coming up in the 99 Days journey.)
The movement was promoted as anything movement related: 9 rolls, 9 steps, 9 kicks, 9 nods, 9 waves, 9 blinks, or walking 9 miles/kilometres. It didn’t matter what, just that if someone noticed the shoes, then it was a great time to talk about FASD. If people didn’t want to share their stories, they could share messages created by the Red Shoes Rock team or direct people to the RSR Facebook page.
For those that may not know, Jodee is mom to Liz Kulp. They both share their story and have written quite a few books. Samuel Guerrido, Liz’s partner, is a photographer and videographer from Good Fruit Camp Productions. He helps Jodee create videos.
2015 Campaign: 60 Days to 9.9
In 2015 the Red Shoes Rock awareness campaign expanded from 30 days to 60.
2016: FASD IS REAL. SO AM I.
In 2016 the Campaign increased to 90 days and the virtual Red Shoe Rock alliance grew with the addition of:
- Ann Yurcek, who brought her ideas and shared her son’s story through It’s Mackie’s World. Mackie has become an advocate “running around the world” spreading awareness.
- Johan Wiklander (Sweden), the founder of RealMindz, hosted the FASD IS REAL. SO AM I campaign.
The FASD IS REAL campaign gave adults with FASD an advocacy voice. Each day, leading up to FASDay, a different individual with FASD was profiled.
2017 Campaign: Real Families. Real Lives.
Although I participated in my own way in 2014 and 2015, my 9-day, 900 km Red Shoes Rock Across Canada trek from Ontario to B.C. in 2016, brought me to the attention of the Red Shoes Rock team as I shared information every day about FASD with a picture of my red shoes in a different province.
In 2017, I reached out to Jodee to propose the idea of 99 Days to 9/9 FASDay. I offered to research and create 99 infographics of tips, facts, history and information about FASD and share each day, until FASDay. And that’s when I joined, as Our Sacred Breath, as an alliance partner and the campaign extended to 99 days with the 99 Days to FASDay series!
The theme, Real Families. Real Lives, was introduced to highlight parents, caregivers and families. As with other years, one family was profiled each day leading up to 9/9.
- People wore red shoes in 63 countries and shared information in 45 languages.
- Brian Philcox (co-creator of FASDay) got the iconic City of Toronto sign lit up red for FASDay.
- Groups started organizing and promoting 5-mile or km walks or events.
2018 Campaign: Start the Conversation & FASD Pioneers
For the 5th Anniversary of Red Shoes Rock, a new logo, and tagline were introduced.
Start the Conversation was suggested by the husband of an FASD advocate – after she bought her first pair of red shoes – way to go Jeff & Maryann Post!
A dedicated website was introduced Red Shoes Rock to share updates and information.
The Campaign focus was FASD Pioneers.
The people who first started talking about, advocating and making a difference in the FASD world were recognized. It’s a fascinating history lesson and well-deserved recognition of these individuals. Information about the Pioneers is featured in a future Day on the 99 Days Journey.
99 Days to FASDay became more of an international project.
Posts were translated by volunteers who shared information in their country. In addition to English, the graphics were shared in Polish, Italian, Spanish and Afrikaans!
Other people and groups started creating “swag” and planning bigger events and media campaigns.
2019 Campaign: Be FASD Aware
In 2019, the campaign wanted to change people’s thinking about prenatal alcohol exposure. To stop the stigma. People were invited to Be Aware. To share that 1 in 20 individuals (in the USA) have FASD.
A new international alliance was announced with the plan to create a film: Embraced, the Truth About FASD.
Check out FASD Awareness Day 2019 for a summary of events.
2020 Campaign: Embrace our Journey
Embrace our Journey was the tagline for the 2020 Campaign.
Individuals were once again invited to share their stories through the Embrace Our Truth: Let Our Stories Be Told media campaign.
Like many other events, due to the pandemic, lockdowns and social distancing, organizations had to pivot plans for Red Shoes Rock events. The Red Shoes Rock team introduced a new challenge: painting and hiding 100,000 red shoe rocks to raise awareness.
Check out: FASDay 2020 Review to see a summary post of events
or this video compilation from 2020.
2021 Update: seeFASD
The theme seeFASD was introduced with several designs unveiled that could be personalized.
With the pandemic into its 2nd year and all the changes and challenges, there was still an amazing joining together to celebrate International FASD Awareness Day. Although I did not create a compilation (we were going through a tough time and I had to take a step back from advocacy efforts) I did take some time to write: Reflecting on my red shoes.
Where will the Red Shoes Rock movement reach in 2022?
The theme this year continues with the Embrace our truth theme, but the acronym C.A.R.E. has been added, which is from the upcoming Embraced documentary.
Why is the Embraced Film using C.A.R.E. as an Acronym?
C = Compassion creates Courage
A = Acceptance empowers Abilities
R = Recognition reveals Realities
E = Education encourages Enrichment
Follow the Red Shoes Rock Facebook page for new information and graphics and information centred around the CARE theme.
Ann Yurcek added her thoughts on Why I Rock My Red Shoes:
For my children who were born affected by prenatal alcohol exposures.
For all children who have yet to be born with FASD.
For all the families who are raising children with FASD
For all the children who have yet to be diagnosed with FASD.
For all the adults who are living with FASD.
For all the adults who do not know that they have FASD.
For all the individuals who have a lifetime of medical and chronic illnesses because of FASD.
For all those who are supporting those with FASD
For all the teachers and schools who do not know how to help children who have FASD.
For all the communities who do not know how to help children & families who are affected by FASD
For all the medical and mental health professionals who need to know about FASD.
For all the researchers who are trying to find answers to help those with FASD.
For all the systems that have yet to find supports for those with FASD
For all the governments that need to learn so that they can support those with FASD.
For the world to wake up to the knowledge about FASD
For my daughter who died because she had FASD.
For my son who is out there somewhere failed by the systems because he was too high functioning to get diagnosed, understood and help.
For all those who will be affected by prenatal alcohol exposure in the future.
Rock Your Red Shoes for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders!
©Ann Yurcek 2022
Will you join the red shoe rock movement this year? All you need is something red: on your feet (running shoes, dress shoes, flip flops, sandals, red socks, red laces, or red painted toenails) or elsewhere … you can wear t-shirts, headbands, a pin, or a tattoo … use your imagination!
It’s not too late to start planning. Visit the official Red Shoes Rock website for free artwork, an Event Planning Guide, and more information on the 2022 Campaign.
Our Sacred Breath and 99 Days to FASDay
I share a lot about the Red Shoes Rock campaign because I believe in it. I am simply a fan that believes in the mission. In fact, this year my daughter and I donated proceeds from the sales of our Red Shoes Rock swag in our online Redbubble Shop to the Embraced Documentary Project. Red Shoes Rock is truly a global get-together of people united for FASD.
Although I no longer create new blog posts for the 99 Days to FASDay (unless I replace a day with new research or information), I do change the look of the graphics to keep things fresh. The original daily posts are updated with new information if something changes.
You can find the new graphics on Twitter: @oursacredbreath, Facebook and Instagram: @allaboutfasd and on the official Red Shoes Rock Facebook page. Please feel free to share on your social media networks!
I love all the new awareness that has been created since I joined the movement in 2014. Each year more people, groups, and organizations join from around the world. There is so much creativity. I look forward each year to seeing what people do! We really are STRONGER TOGETHER.
If you care to share, let me know why you rock your reds or what you, your group or your organization is up to this year. You can comment below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.