It helped flood-affected Fort Simpson in 2021. Now, it's making a fashionable comeback in a new effort to help people hit by devastating flooding in Hay River.
The original story of the Golden Flood Slipper of the Dehcho, the Northwest Territories' least likely fundraising icon, began amid serious flooding in Fort Simpson last year, when a planeload of donations from well-meaning strangers arrived in town.
Volunteer Tracy Waugh Antoine began sorting through the items and was bemused to discover someone had thought it might be useful to send a pair of gold, rhinestone-encrusted high heels to a flood zone.
As a joke, Antoine uploaded an image of one of the heels to Facebook and started an auction for the “Golden Flood Slipper,” with all proceeds going to a flood relief fundraiser. She started the bidding at $1.
It had reached $500 before Antoine realized she had tossed the shoes aside and had no idea where they were.
“In the middle of all of this – trying to make sure people are warm and have food – I’m running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to find this ridiculous high-heeled shoe,” she told Cabin Radio at the time.
After a frantic search, the suddenly-priceless footwear was safely located and went on to raise more than $2,500 for the community.
After the fundraiser, and with the left heel en-route to its new home in Calling Lake, Alberta, Antoine began to wonder what to do with the other one.
For a while, she considered donating it to the Fort Simpson Historical Society but, during the difficult weeks and months that followed the flood, her focus was elsewhere and the priceless artifact remained "in the vault" (her closet).
Then, news broke about the situation in Hay River.
"We know very well how it feels because we went through the same thing last year," said Catherine Blondin, another of the organizers.
"Most of us either had damage to our homes or lost homes entirely. So when we saw everything happening in Hay River it was like, we can't just sit here and do nothing."
A meeting was planned to discuss ways to help, and people began throwing out ideas. Someone joked that they should try to find another shoe. Antoine realized: they already had one.
"So we thought, let's go ahead and try the auction again and see what happens," she said.
So far, they've raised more than $1,000.
But Operation Golden Slipper is only a small part of a larger series of fundraising events planned in Fort Simpson for hard-hit communities to the east like Vale Island, downtown Hay River, Paradise Gardens and the Kátł’odeeche First Nation.
On May 19, a carnival will be held at the Fort Simpson arena, including a silent auction and a 50/50 draw. Organizers are currently soliciting donations from community members and local businesses.
On June 11, there will be a ladies' clothing swap with wine and cheese, and proceeds from tickets sold will go to Hay River recovery efforts. Depending on the extent of damage, which remains to be determined, they may plan more.
"What's happened is worse than what happened to us, and I know how much work and effort it took here," said Blondin.
"My husband is the SAO for Fort Simpson so I went through the whole journey with him. And their community is bigger than ours too, so I can only imagine how much cleanup, and effort, and help they're going to need going forward."
Caitrin Pilkington, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cabin Radio