By GRACE GADDY
The phrase “walk like a man” will carry a whole new meaning this month when a bunch of brave men trudge a mile along South Loop 256 — in women's high heels.
Their efforts, part of the fourth annual “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event, are intended to raise awareness on the problem of domestic violence and to end violence against women, locally and beyond. The event will benefit the Crisis Center of Anderson and Cherokee Counties.
The walk will take place twice, once in Jacksonville — happening Saturday — and here in Palestine, creating a flashy procession on Saturday, April 26.
Something new this year, in addition to individuals, the event will allow teams to participate with the theme “Team Up Against Abuse,” according to Crisis Center Community Educator Brandon Greene.
“This is the first year to do teams,” Greene said, such as “part of a business or a church organization.”
“If they want to grab a few guys and organize a team to come out, we are asking the teams that they come and dress the same or wear face paint or something that identifies them as a team.”
Greene, who organized the event with Director of Development Roger Pharr, added that participants often acquire sponsorships in order to raise money for the cause. For instance, Greene said he was working on wrapping up his own sponsorship goals.
“I'm actually getting people to sponsor me online at 25 cents per step,” he said. “It's 1,800 steps roughly to make a mile, and at 25 cents a piece, I can raise $450 for the cause. Right now (as of Thursday) I am only 800 steps away.”
Last year, the Crisis Center raised a combined total of $25,000 from both Anderson and Cherokee counties, with respective events in Palestine and Jacksonville. Greene said the two counties compete to see who can bring in the most money. Last year, Palestine brought in about $13,000.
“It was our biggest fundraiser that we've had here, so we're hoping for that much or more — so $15,000 would be a great goal for Palestine to hit (this year),” Greene said. “And that's between the walkers and the corporate sponsors that we have.”
Though the deadline to register has technically passed, Greene said the Crisis Center was still taking submissions — so those who haven’t signed up yet are encouraged to do so.
Cost to register for the “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event is $10 for walkers. Registration forms are available at the Crisis Center of Anderson and Cherokee Counties’ office at 313 W. Debard St. in Palestine, or online at www.mycrisiscenter.com.
This year’s walk will start with a check-in and breakfast for the walkers at 9 a.m. at the Palestine Regional Medical Center. A Pump-Up Celebration will start at 9:45 a.m., and the walk will start at 10 a.m.
Greene said that local SANE nurse (sexual assault nurse examiner) Jessi Jones will speak during this year's Pump-up Celebration on the effects of domestic violence and “what we're doing to end domestic violence in the community.”
He said the walk tends to take approximately 45 minutes and is held on the loop to generate attention on multiple levels — as evidenced by some of the men's rather colorful clothing choices. Signs with messages such as “I'm walking to make my community safe for my daughter ” are also provided for participants to carry.
“The purpose is to bring awareness,” he said. “We have a best-dressed competition, so there are many outfits that are quite eye-catching. And it's a men's walk because it's a men's issue for ending violence against women.”
Some local “celebrities” who will trade flat footwear for classy stilettos this year include Criminal District Attorney Doug Lowe and Anderson County Sheriff Greg Taylor, among others — such as the bubble-eyed Sweet Frog, mascot of sweetFrog premium frozen yogurt shop in Palestine.
Immediately following the walk will be the Stiletto Dash-for-Cash, a 100-yard race (in the heels) in the Palestine Mall parking lot. The first one through the tape at the finish line wins $100. Greene said the dash, sponsored by PRMC and Ben E. Keith, will probably start around 11 a.m.
Participants are asked to find their own shoes for events.
“If you wear a men's 11 or smaller, you can find them locally,” Greene said. “If (your feet) are larger, you might have to order them somewhere.”
Greene said he often is asked if women are allowed to participate, and they are.
“We encourage women to come and cheer for us as we painfully make the walk,” he said with a laugh, adding, “but the women don't register and get sponsors like the men do.”
To any nervous men out there, Greene said walking a mile in high heels isn't as scary as it sounds. He said many of the men find duck tape come in handy for holding the fancy foot gear in place.
“It's quite a fun event,” he said. “It's a little painful, but you get over it, and you can brag that you did it. It's very rewarding to be a part of something that has such a positive impact on so many people. It offers hope to the victims of domestic violence, that there is community support for their issue, and of course the funds that are brought in go directly to the victims that are victimized by domestic violence child abuse and sexual assault.”
Greene quoted that 73 to 75 percent of Texans have been affected in some way by domestic violence, whether directly or indirectly.
“So its a huge issue, and men are the ones who have to stand up and do something about it.”
For more information, call the Crisis Center at 903-723-5858.