STONINGTON — Where do you buy stiletto shoes for really big feet?
That’s a problem that Elizabeth Mitchell-Cipriano and her sister, Stephanie Shawn, are facing as they put together a Stilettos and Speedos benefit for Dorian Murray for Feb. 9 at Pawcatuck’s Handlebar Cafe. They’re collecting stiletto, pump, and high heeled shoes, in woman’s size 10 and up, so the men participating in the event don’t have to wear flats.
“Just to make it a fun day,” explained Shawn.
Although the image of a middle-aged man in stilettos and a speedo creates a pretty indelible memory, the real story behind the benefit is Dorian Murray, a 6-year-old kindergarten student from Westerly who is fighting a resurgence of cancer.
In April 2012, Dorian was diagnosed with stage-four rhabdomysarcoma. He was in remission this summer, and in June had what everyone thought would be his last dose of chemotherapy. But after six months of remission, Dorian was once again diagnosed with this aggressive type of soft-tissue cancer on Dec. 21.
Bar owner Mitchell-Cipriano, who has been following Dorian’s journey back to health on the “Praying for Dorian” Facebook page, said his change in health was “heartbreaking.” According to the Facebook posts by Dorian’s mother, Melissa Murray, the new tumor is at the base of the spine. The location of the new tumor is too risky for surgery, so Dorian’s doctors are fighting the cancer with more chemotherapy and radiation.
This isn’t the first time the bar has raised money for Dorian, said Mitchell-Cipriano. She and Shawn, along with many bar patrons, have been following Dorian’s story for some time.
“We’ve all taken a personal interest in the child,” Mitchell-Cipriano said. “This town is just invested in this child.”
The event started as a race from the Pawcatuck bar to the police station and back, a total of 0.6 miles, in heels and speedos. But the run quickly changed to a parade.
“The running went to a walk, and probably a crawl,” joked Mitchell-Cipriano. “Maybe the women can carry the men; we’re used to it.”
And the speedos are optional. Some participants, men and women, are considering superhero costumes, a favorite of Dorian’s.
“They’re all afraid of the cold,” Mitchell-Cipriano said of the male participants, laughing. “We’re dealing with men that all of a sudden have become modest.”
The event begins at 1 p.m., with the all-important walking-in-heels practice. At 3 p.m., participants will head out the door to the police station and back, in what could possibly be one of the oddest parades this town has ever seen.
Dorian may be there in some honorary capacity if he’s feeling well enough to participate that day. If he is there, the women hope the pageantry puts a smile on the little boy’s face, they said.
There is no cost to watch or participate, but Mitchell-Cipriano said she hopes people realize how important donations are to Dorian and his family, and give what they can. There will be a raffle of items donated from local businesses, and arts and crafts vendors will be selling their wares as well.
Special t-shirts, donated by Poor Morgan of Stonington, will be available for $20 each.
“His medical bills have to be astronomical,” said Mitchell-Cipriano. “It’s expensive to be sick.”
In addition to raising money for Dorian’s medical expenses and travel, the women said the event will also bring awareness to his situation, and show Dorian and his mother that other people care, and they are not alone.
In the event of bad weather — “barring a blizzard,” Shawn said — the event will go on. However, parts of it may change as circumstances dictate. Hopefully, there will be enough high heels for everyone who wants to participate, including the 99 men and women who’ve signed up through Facebook. Mitchell-Cipriano has asked the Jonnycake Center to set aside any large women’s shoes that come in; she plans on buying them for the event, and then donating them back.
She’ll also take shoe donations, or raffle contributions.
To donate money for Dorian’s family without the parade of high heels and superhero costumes, make a check out to “Dorian’s Miracle” and send it to the Westerly Community Credit Union, 122 Granite St., Westerly, RI 02891.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” said Shawn.