Men take a stand in women’s shoes

Hundreds came out to Camana Bay Thursday evening to support the men of Cayman as they took a brave stand – in women’s shoes.

The event, called “Walk In Her Shoes,” raised more than $53,000 for the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre, which provides shelter and support to women who have been affected by domestic violence.

Participating men wearing all manner of high-heeled women’s shoes – from sky-high, sequined pumps to more sensible kitten heels – were tasked with walking up to five laps up and down Market Street in Camana Bay. The men were encouraged to secure sponsorships for each lap, and for every $100 a participant raised, he was allowed to reduce his walk by one lap.

“The was the very first ‘Walk in her Shoes’ event, so we didn’t know what to expect,” Crisis Centre director Ania Milanowska-Sedgley said. “We were all amazed with how successful this event was, even the public that was standing around and watching it … everybody loved it.”

One of the event organizers, Michelle Lockwood, who sits on the fundraising committee for the Crisis Centre, assumed that maybe the event would draw 20 or so participants, and she was blown away when more than 70 men showed up. The highest individual fundraiser, Matthew Crawford, raised almost $8,000.

“It completely overwhelms me how much support that we have and how much the guys want to do this,” Ms. Lockwood said. “Our other events are quite popular, but this one was specifically for men … I think it’s great that the guys had an opportunity to speak out against domestic violence in their own way.”

By the end of the event, Ms. Lockwood said she had already received several requests that it become an annual fundraiser. Ms. Milanowska-Sedgley said they will most likely time the event next year to coincide with International Women’s Day, as she thinks it will be a “brilliant” way to get men involved in the day’s celebrations.

“Events like this, they take a huge load off our shoulders,” Ms. Milanowska-Sedgley said.

She said the Crisis Centre has to raise $300,000 a year just to cover basic operating costs, which increase every year with the number of women seeking assistance from the organization. She said the number of clients supported by the Crisis Centre has more than doubled since 2012, with 113 clients served last year. Currently, the center is sheltering five women and six children. Ms. Milanowska-Sedgley said she thanked the men for daring to “put on those shoes.”

“To me if a man is prepared to do that … they are the real men, because they just feel comfortable in their own skin and they’re just happy to do it,” she said. “They were happy that they were somehow included and they could show their support for the Crisis Centre.”

Participant Shaun Tracey donned a pair of pink peep-toe slingbacks for the event, and he went the extra mile, matching the shoes with a flowery pink frock. But he found that making three laps in heels was no cakewalk.

“I didn’t practice, except around the office beforehand,” Mr. Tracey said. “Walking in heels was difficult, very difficult.”

He said many of his colleagues at Campbells sponsored him, and he was glad to do what he could to help the Crisis Centre.

“It’s an important charity,” Mr. Tracey said. “Domestic violence can affect anyone, from any background.”