Walk a Mile in Her Shoes sets record for participants, money raised

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Neil Johnson
Saturday, September 15, 2012

— If you’ve ever seen me trying to walk up a flight of stairs, you don’t want to picture me in a pair of ruby-red, size-15 women’s high heels.

Yet there I was, outside the Pontiac Convention Center in Janesville, where I had volunteered to walk a mile in a pair of women’s shoes Friday for the YWCA of Rock County’s Walk A Mile in Her Shoes benefit.

The red pumps were rentals laid aside by the YWCA especially for me. I know men tend to exaggerate such things, but I swear that the heels on those shoes had to have been 4 inches.

Leave it to me to jump from the frying pan straight into the blast furnace.

I lined up in the center’s parking lot next to a sea of men at the starting line. There were at least a hundred men, all in some sort of women’s shoes.

Next to me was Larry Barton of Janesville. He had on emerald-green sequin stiletto boots paired with a T-shirt and a pair of U.S. Marine mesh shorts.

Clearly, it was not the first time Larry had walked in the annual fundraiser. This year, he’d raised $2,000 in pledges. Larry is a fool for women’s pumps, and here’s why:

“This walk is a clear showing of men who aren’t afraid to let the community show that we are opposed to domestic violence,” Barton said.

The YWCA views the walk as its biggest fundraising event of the year. And this year, it was bigger than ever. Organizers on Friday night said the walk had at least 140 registered walkers.

For Janesville, that’s a record number of men in heels. Another record for the event: As of Friday night, the walk had raised $56,000. Organizers expected the walk could raise $70,000 by the night’s end.

Proceeds go to the YWCA of Rock County’s Alternatives to Violence program. The program offers services to abused women, including an emergency shelter, case management, counseling for women and children and legal advocacy, along with recovery services and transitional living arrangements.

I thought about the cause as I followed the crowd onto Liberty Lane. My back, calves and ankles were already feeling the burn. My toes were being crushed.

I found myself coveting the open-toed, strappy sandals that Dave Canik of Janesville was wearing for the walk. He was strolling along in relative comfort, talking to another guy about Packers football.

Dave’s wife, Jenny Canik, saw me struggling near the corner of Lexington Drive and gave me a pointer.

“You’ve got to shift your weight. And try to swing your hips a little,” she said.

That really seemed to help. In fact, I got into such a rhythm with the hip swinging that I weaved out into the parking lot at Red Robin and almost in front of man in a Toyota.

He rolled down the window and eyed my red pumps warily.

“You have a good night, buddy,” he said before pulling away.

The walk was full of guys who had way more experience walking in high heels than I. Take Ryun Bibro of Edgerton. He had done the walk at least three other years.

This year, he was sporting 4-inch, pink patent leather heels. He was really swaggering in those things.

“I’ve been practicing. You know, 35 minutes a night,” he said.

Greg Elliot, a burly teacher at Beloit Memorial High School, sidled up to me in a pair of heels.

I eased into the grass terrace to give Greg some room.

He said when co-workers learned he’d be walking in women’s shoes, they literally threw $5 bills at him. Greg was hurting, but he wasn’t going to stop until he was back at the Pontiac.

“It’s a small price to pay for this cause,” he said, slapping me hard on the back.

Next time I run into Greg, I’ll mention that he shouldn’t jostle another man who’s wearing heels for the first time. I about sprawled face-first into a street sign.

But we had reached the final leg. The convention center was in sight. I passed a guy in front of me who had mashed down the back of one of his patent-leather pumps, and I could see an angry blister forming on his Achilles tendon. I could feel a blister rising on my own big toe.

I turned into the convention center parking lot, easing off my high heels. Immediately, I began hobbling around, rubbing my feet.

“Now you know what us women go through,” a woman yelled at me, laughing.

Indeed. Never was I so glad to be walking into the sunset with a pair of women’s shoes tucked under my arm.

Last updated: 4:38 pm Tuesday, August 27, 2013

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