John Ludwig is no heel when it comes to walking a mile in her shoes

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Shelly Birkelo
Friday, August 1, 2014

JANESVILLE—John Ludwig knows how to raise money for the YWCA Rock County Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event.

In 2011, he raised $4,500, in 2012 $12,000 and in 2013 another $11,000.

As of Thursday, the 55-year-old Janesville man was nearing his 2014 goal of $10,000. In addition to the $7,450 he's raised is $1,950 contributed by members of Team Luds.

The local event that aims to put an end to domestic violence raised a record-breaking $77,000 last year.

The eighth annual event, which involves men and boys who wear high heels and walk a mile in them to raise money and create awareness in the community, starts at 4 p.m. Friday, Aug. 15, at the Pontiac Convention Center, 2809 N. Pontiac Drive.

Proceeds benefit the YWCA and victims of domestic violence.

Ludwig, a General Motors' retiree and full-time employee at R.E. Michel, raised $2,000 in two weeks when he first participated in Walk a Mile in 2010. Each year his efforts for the cause have grown.

“These shoes have raised around $40,000,” Ludwig said, holding up a pair of size 13 white patent leather platforms he bought for $100.

“I just like to give back to my community and don't condone domestic violence,” Ludwig said.

He got involved in Walk a Mile five years ago after YWCA board member Caryn Oleston invited him.

Fundraising by Ludwig and others is critical, said Angela Moore, executive director.

“It helps us fund our programs focusing on domestic violence,” she said.

That's important because the number of women and families the YWCA is serving are increasing, Moore said.

From January through May, the Y's Alternative to Violence Program provided 3,188 shelter nights for 102 women and children “and we've been full several times over the last year,” said Crystal Reinoso, event chairwoman and YWCA board member.

Ludwig said he has no secret fundraising weapons.

“I just know a lot of people,” he said.

Ludwig also isn't shy about asking people for donations.

“I just explain what I'm doing and ask them if they'd like to donate,” he said.

“Ninety-nine percent give,” Ludwig said.

If they don't, he isn't offended.

Cash or in-kind donations range between $5 and $500, he said.

The incentive for big donations comes with getting recognition on the backs and sleeves of Ludwig's Walk a Mile event T-shirt.

The bigger the donations, the larger the print, he said.

Ludwig also taps into other fundraising experiences, including meat and other types of raffles, which have helped support the Alzheimer's Support Center of Rock County, KANDU and HealthNet of Rock County.

“I just like helping people,” he said.


The red high heels showing up in windows around Janesville and even on the feet of Bessie the Cow on Milton Avenue are meant to raise awareness of domestic violence and the Aug. 15 YWCA fundraising event, Walk a Mile in Her Shoes.

Fetch Graphics, a Janesville company that wraps items with advertising, donated the vinyl graphics and spruced up Bessie.

Staff came up with the idea of wrapping Bessie's feet in high heels, said Kerri Harold, client services.

“We love to wrap anything we can wrap,” Harold said.

The company produced the vinyl high heel graphics available to local businesses.  Requests have been so numerous that Fetch is in its second printing.

Fetch personnel also created a website, theredhighheel.com, dedicated to the event and included information about domestic violence.

 “The most important thing was to get people talking about the YWCA,” Harold said.

--Marcia Nelesen

Last updated: 7:36 am Friday, August 1, 2014

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