Though some of the hand-wringing you’re bound to see on certain Facebook groups might suggest otherwise, Bay View remains one of Milwaukee’s safest neighborhoods. Still, like every other segment of metro Milwaukee, it isn’t immune from crime. Unlike many other neighborhoods, though, is the tight-knit community’s tendency to come together to help its own in the wake of violence. Longtime Bay View resident Kate O’Keefe found this out firsthand after she was attacked in broad daylight. Now, with the help of others residents and area businesses, she’s working to forge something positive from the senseless act with Bay View Barks Back.
Last November, O’Keefe was taking an afternoon walk with Wolfy, her mini schnauzer, when she was confronted on Clement Avenue by a man and a woman in their late teens or early twenties.
“It’s not uncommon for people to come up and ask to pet my dog, so at first I thought it might be that,” O’Keefe says. “They didn’t say anything, but they were circling me, and I was trying to get past. I just said ‘where are you going?’ and I was trying to get around him. The next thing I know, he’s leaning down towards the dog. I was thinking he was going to take my dog. The next thing I know, he punched me.”
O’Keefe scooped up Wolfy and ran to flag down a motorist, who brought her home. After driving herself to the hospital, she learned the punch fractured her upper jaw and knocked four teeth in. Her jaw was wired shut for six weeks. As a result of her injury, O’Keefe—who is a nurse practitioner in Bay View—was ultimately unable to work, and her inability to eat anything more than broth and protein shakes caused her to lose about 25 pounds.
“Eating was not easy, that’s for sure,” O’Keefe says. “If I ever see more butternut squash [soup] again, it’ll be too soon.”
While the recovery process was difficult, O’Keefe was overwhelmed by the support of her friends and neighbors, as well as the generosity of complete strangers. People sent flowers and brought over food. An area acupuncturist offered free services and a local chiropractor gave O’Keefe complimentary light therapy.
“It’s an embarrassment of riches. The chiropractor didn’t know me at all. She just heard about it and wanted to offer help. Neighbors were coming up and leaving notes saying they were happy to help walk Wolfy,” O’Keefe says. “There’s been such a huge outpouring of support, and even people checking in consistently. It’s been pretty phenomenal.”
In spite of being the victim of a violent attack, O’Keefe says she’s lucky, citing her health insurance coverage, paid time off, and her understanding employer. When approached about having a benefit for her, she recommended funds instead be raised for two local organizations that deal with violence prevention and support for victims of attacks. “Bay View Barks Back” is raising money for Urban Underground and Project Ujima through raffle ticket sales. Close to 60 local businesses have donated prizes that total more than $6,500 in value. The $5 tickets (or five for $20) can be purchased at Mac’s Pet Depot, D14 Brewery and Pub, Hairys Hair Bar, Rush Mor Records, Puddler’s Hall, Lovely Salon and Spa, and Ben’s Cycle (which is donating a bike as a raffle prize).
Tickets will also be sold at the raffle drawing and wrap up party at Urban Bay View on Thursday. Winners do not need to be present, but Classic Slice will be providing pizza, WMSE DJs will be spinning records, and Iron Grate BBQ Co. will have its food truck parked outside. Though Thursday’s event stems from a senseless act of violence, the incident has only helped bring Bay View to a stronger and more unified place. Though O’Keefe isn’t quite ready to travel that same path she did on that November afternoon, she’s on her way to returning to her familiar roads with the knowledge she’s not walking them alone.
“We’ve taken some walks by ourselves, but nothing huge. But we’re getting there,” O’Keefe says. “This is our neighborhood and we’re not going to stop walking and living and being a part of this community.”
The Bay View Barks Back raffle and wrap up party takes place at Urban Bay View from 5-9 p.m. on Thursday, January 19.