Rising in heels for violence awareness


The awkward clacking of dozens of high heels on pavement echoed down Lakeshore Road East in Oakville the morning of Sunday, Sept. 27.

About 65 men wobbled 800 metres down the road in hot pink heels to support the cause to end violence against women.

Burlington hosted its sixth annual Hope in High Heels fundraiser Saturday, followed by Oakville, which held its fifth walk.

“Men let their friends know what they are doing and they end up getting a lot of support,” said Carmela Bozzo, development manager at Halton Women’s Place.

As a non-profit organization, Halton Women’s Place runs the event every year to raise awareness about violence against women and children.

“We need to recognize it is happening in Halton,” says Bozzo.

“We also believe that men need to be part of the solution. They are getting together to show their support in standing up against women abuse and that is crucial in changing societal views and getting men more involved.”

Men of all ages stumbled for the cause. Many formed teams, including police officers, firefighters and real estate agents. One of the sponsors was Clarks shoes.

Photographer Mike Highfield walked with his girlfriend Bianca Bernardi and her father Sonnie, for the second year in a row.

“You get to raise awareness by being here. It’s just a fun time and it’s a good way to get involved in the community,” says Highfield.

Bob Lush, 77, has been participating for four years.

“I don’t remember why I didn’t do it before. My wife met somebody who was involved in the event. That’s how I met Russ Little and now I’m on his team.”

A retired lawyer, Lush arrived early this year. That’s because last time, he wound up with a pair of heels three sizes too big.

“My toes were jammed down into the nose of it. It was cruel.”

“It’s awful fun though. It’s a good thing and it raises a bit of money. I think awareness is the most important part.”

During his 50-year legal career, said Lush, “I’ve dealt with a great deal of sad cases, not only towards women but children as well. It’s terrible.”

The walk allowed everyone who participated to spread the word about abuse and help support the women and children around them.

The hope is that the event will bring more help to many women who seek refuge at Halton Women’s Place every day.

“Last year we served about 1,185 women and children and our crisis counsellors answered about 1,125 calls,” says Bozzo.

Halton Women’s Place has 52 beds, provides transitional support, counselling, food, clothes and daily necessities.

The Burlington and Milton shelters are the only ones in Halton.

“Our capacity was at 102 per cent most of the summer. Every one of our 52 beds was filled with a woman and her child,” says Diane Beaulieu, executive director of Halton Women’s Place.

“We want to give them hope. By being here, you show them that they matter and that we care.”

This year the Hope in High Heels event raised approximately $100,000 for shelter needs such as clothing, linens, educational materials, kitchen and cleaning supplies.

Even with the donations and money raised, getting the issue out into the community is the agency’s biggest goal.

“You men are part of the solution to ending violence against women,” the said. “We can’t do this without you and we need more men like all of you.”