By GRACE GADDY
PALESTINE — Drivers traveling eastbound on Loop 256 Saturday got quite a show with their morning commute as a colorful procession of dolled-up menfolk made their way from the Palestine Regional Medical Center to the Palestine Mall parking lot, a distance of approximately one mile.
Men in neon tights and duct tape-wrapped stilettos — zebra and leopard print duct tape, naturally — were a common sighting, along with signs displaying messages such as “Real men don't abuse women,” “Stop verbal and mental abuse” and “Ain't no men without women.”
Walking, hobbling and waving to passers-by, the men were there to participate in Anderson County's fourth annual “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event, benefitting the Crisis Center of Anderson & Cherokee Counties.
The annual walk, in which men strap on women's high heels for a 2,000-step trek, is an eye-catching parade intended to raise awareness on the issue of domestic violence, as well as to promote efforts to end abuse against women.
At the end of the day, Crisis Center Director of Development Roger Pharr said he felt the event was a winner.
“I think it was a huge success,” Pharr said. “We were just so happy that the community came out to support us. The day before the event we had about 22 guys signed up to walk, but by the time we started walking, there were around 30 guys coming up and registering, and we had shoes to fit them.”
By press time Tuesday, Pharr said that $8,700 had been raised by the walkers, benefitting the crisis center, and more than $3,000 had come in from corporate sponsorships in Palestine.
At Saturday's walk, local SANE nurse (sexual assault nurse examiner) Jessi Jones shared facts about domestic violence with participants, and thanked them for stepping out against it. She said more than $5 billion is put toward domestic violence in the United States annually, and locally, the problem is one for concern.
“I've seen firsthand the effects within our own community of sexual assault and how it affects our patients, and how it takes a community to pull together to help end that violence,” Jones said.
Sharing her sentiments, Anderson County Criminal District Attorney Doug Lowe and Anderson County Sheriff Greg Taylor turned out for Saturday's event — both having seen the effects that Jones spoke of, and both fourth-year veterans of the walk.
Lowe called the event “a lot of fun,” sporting a flashy albeit beat-up pair of hot pink high heels. Taylor had on a slightly more conservative pair of ladies' black pumps.
First timer Brett Weisenburn, a local State Farm Insurance Agent, said that even though the walk was, well, uncomfortable, he would definitely do it again.
“It was really painful, yet fun at the same time,” Weisenburn said.
Spicing things up, trophies were awarded for the best-blinged shoe, best overall outfit and most painful walk. Awards were also presented for the most money raised by a group and an individual, respectively.
John Murray raised the most for an individual with $1,020, and Anderson County Trio took the trophy for most money raised by a group, with $2,595.
Scott Dishman won the award for best-blinged shoe, Randy Dempsey for best overall outfit and Arthur Hill for most painful walk.
“I never won a trophy before,” Dempsey said with a laugh, “and I've got to dress like a woman to win a trophy.”
Following the walk, a 100-yard dash in the heels was held in the Palestine Mall parking lot, for which Dustin Marcum pocketed a $100 cash prize.
Walk A Mile in Her Shoes was sponsored in part by ChickTime of Palestine, PRMC, Trimble & Company, Verizon, Heart to Heart Hospice and Ben E. Keith Distribution. The Crisis Center of Anderson & Cherokee Counties is a 501c3 organization assisting victims of family violence, sexual assault and child abuse. For more information, call 905-723-5858.