The Empty Shoes Project

Grace Nicole Wynen-LargeOn October 21st 2010, Julie Wynen’s world exploded and changed forever. She and her 11-year-old daughter Grace were t-boned by a drunk driver in a violent and brutal crash. Five days later, Julie woke up from a coma and was told that Grace would not wake up from her injuries.

It was clear to Julie that her daughter was not a lone victim. The drunk driver who killed Grace also deeply injured her mother, father and sister, four grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, friends’ parents, teachers, community members and others.

That drunk driver was also a symptom of a much bigger problem facing Canadians:

  • 2,190 people are killed by drunk drivers each year in Canada – six every single day
  • 20% of those killed are children under the age of 16 (approx. 450 per year)
  • 78% of Impaired drivers that kill or injure people are not prosecuted
  • Only 12 out of every 500 drunk drivers get jail time – less than two years on average
  • Impaired drivers kill more than twice as often as all others who commit homicide

Julie found a way to give these troubling numbers a visual testament while going through Grace’s room last year. She found a simple pair of white canvas shoes that her friends had decorated in markers with drawings and names. A pair of shoes that no one will ever wear again; empty shoes that sit on a shelf in her room.

Julie realized that all victims of drunk drivers are left with a pair of empty shoes.

empty shoes

The goals of Julie Wynen’s Empty Shoes Project are:

  • To build awareness about the crime of impaired driving causing death and injury;
  • To physically represent the number of victims killed every year (not including those who did not die of their injuries) with empty pairs of donated shoes;
  • To give voice to the victims of impaired drivers;
  • To promote changes in legislation to reflect that most of these crimes are committed by excessive drinkers who drive drunk repeatedly, often killing or maiming without consequences or remorse.

How can you help?

  • Donate your old shoes. Clean out your closet and send any pair of shoes, boots, slippers, sandals, flippers, skates, ballet shoes or basketball sneakers, stilettos or flip flops. Make sure these are shoes you can part with because they will not be returned. 
  • The goal is to collect 2,190 pairs of shoes – one to represent each person who dies at the hands of a drunk driver in Canada annually. The shoes will be displayed at Parliament Hill to demonstrate the need for legislation changes in late October 2014. They will also be used to create an installation during NIGHT\SHIFT in downtown Kitchener on Saturday, November 1st.

If someone you love has died or been injured by a drunk driver, please feel free to send along a photo of the person attached to the shoes to represent them.

Shoes can be delivered to either of the following addresses:

The Empty Shoes Project

c/o The Storage Place

381 Clyde Road, Cambridge, ON, N1R 5S7

OR

c/o Night\Shift

195 King St. W., Kitchener, ON, N2G 4V6

nightshift@alternativesjournal.ca