As Forrest Gump said, you can tell a lot about a person by their shoes. And more than 150 men who donned heels to walk a mile through downtown Frederick on Saturday were trying to send a very loud and clear message with their footwear.
"Love should never hurt," said participant Phil Briggs, who donned a pink dress along with his pumps.
Saturday's festivities were part of the third annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event to benefit Heartly House Inc., a Frederick County nonprofit that provides resources to victims of domestic violence. According to the organization's development director, Robin Rose, about $35,000 was raised last year.
Though exact totals were not available Saturday, Rose said this year's earnings are going to exceed $40,000. The top team raised $2,650 and the highest-earning individual brought in $1,406, she said.
Rodney Martin, Milt Crutchley and Jeff Schaeberle, all of Evangelical Reformed United Church of Christ in Frederick, challenged their congregation to donate more than $1,500. Meeting that goal meant they were decked out in shoes, dresses and jewelry Saturday afternoon.
At the walk's afterparty at the Delaplaine Visual Arts Education Center, Martin said a woman in the congregation has used Heartly House's services in the past, which puts the event especially close to their hearts.
They hope to raise even more money next year, but "we're trying to figure out what we're going to have to step it up to," Martin said. Suggestions they've heard so far have included waxing their legs and donning makeup.
Team "Bearded Tutus," made up of Greg Johnson, Stuart Terl and former Frederick Alderman Joe Baldi, also went above and beyond the high-heels requirement. As their team name suggests, they wore tutus, as well as nail polish and jewelry.
"Aside from raising money for a really good cause, we made a lot of people smile today," Terl said.
Johnson said he looks at the walk as a way to address a serious issue in a lighthearted way.
"It opens up that dialogue," he said.
Donald Carver agreed.
"It's one of those issues that people don't come out and talk about," he said.
According to his own experience, the men-in-high-heels element -- his own shoes were knee-high red, white and blue boots -- draws more attention to the message than a less adventurous fundraiser might.
"Men are just getting more and more excited about bringing people into the event," said Heartly House CEO Roberta Geidner. She finds hope in the fact that "men who believe that we should have a nonviolent society" have walked in increasing numbers each year. She is particularly delighted to see that men are bringing their children along.
"Often because domestic violence is so ridden with shame, guilt and stigma, we don't talk about it," she said. Men who come to the event with the next generation in tow send the message that "the cycle stops here."