Beer and barbecue were served to approximately 70 men who limped and rubbed their feet as their wives and children laughed with and at them during the Rape and Abuse Crisis Services' (RACS) fourth annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes Barbecue.
The event is also known as Shoes, Blues and Barbecue to volunteers and workers of RACS. The march is a international event to stop rape, sexual assault and gender violence, according to a press release from RACS.
"The Rape and Abuse Crisis Service is an organization that has been around for 34 years," said Jim Clardy, RACS executive director and wearer of red three-inch heels. "Our mission is to provide shelter and related services to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and teen dating violence."
The services they offer include providing shelter, court advocacy, counseling, hospital advocacy, support groups and a 24-hour hotline for victims. They also provide abuse education to school and civic organizations. The 36-bed RACS shelter serves more than 225 women and children and more than 800 others are counseled by the organization, Clardy said.
Domestic abuse and sexual assault is a growing problem in the area. Last year, the shelter saw a 25 percent increase in the number of people needing a bed at the shelter for a night. Every year, they assist with approximately 500 protection orders and answer more than 1,000 hotline calls.
This event raises the awareness of the growing problem with men, while allowing people to have fun. It also gives the community a chance cut loose and laugh at men trying to adjust to painful steps in high healed shoes.
"I love it," said Lt. David Williams, Jefferson City Police Department. "This is a wonderful opportunity to support something important. I got my wife and both kids here, and we support this wholeheartedly not because it is fun, but because it is a good cause."
Williams is a tall man with a shaved head and broad shoulders, who was wearing red heels with rhinestones and a sticker with the word lieutenant on them. He has been with the police department for 21 years and now works for the patrol division on the midnight shift. His four years of experience with the event was evident as he took large confident steps and goaded his friend, who he affectionately called Shorty, into walking faster, despite Shorty's noticeable pain.
The Marine Corps League and the Fraternal Order of Police prepared the food as the band and walkers provided the entertainment. This year the band was the Cherry Pistols.
"It is the first time I have been here for this, but I heard a lot of good things," said David Baker, the Cherry Pistols' lead singer. "Whenever we get a chance to do a fund raiser or event like this we jump on it so we can support various causes from around the area. We are just excited to be here."
After then dozens of men hobbled back to the finishing point, many quickly substituted their new foot ware for sandals and tennis shoes. A few still stuck it out in their new kicks. As they sat and enjoyed food and drink, the winners for best shoes and most funds raised were announced.
The Holts Summit Police Department won best shoes and Don Smith from Grace Counseling won most funds raised with $600. Smith had fuzzy heels with fake cardinals glued to them. The outfit was complemented with a matching sunhat.
"This is my first time," Smith said about the walk."I think it is great and I have always heard about it and so I have always known it was a great event and just never participated."
Grace Counseling is an organization akin to RACS, so several who work there are concerned about raising money for RACS, Smith said.
"We provide counseling serves for all walks of life," Smith said about Grace Counseling. "We care about organizations like RACS because we see a lot of people going through physical abuse and sexual abuse. We care about those people we work with, and a lot of them are in RACS."
Men complained, women laughed and the band played on with 80's rock classics. Before the crowd scattered back to their individual homes, joggers were already running their laps. Not everyone, but a few stopped briefly as if they were vexed by the group, possibly trying to figure out what so many men were doing in typically women's shoes.