Men run at ‘Champions In Heels’ to raise awareness about domestic violence

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 192 views 

Men from all over Benton County traded their running shoes for high heels on Saturday (July 18) at the Bentonville High School track and ran in a relay aimed at raising awareness about domestic violence and sexual assault.

The Northwest Arkansas Women’s Shelter’s presented Champions In Heels as a “men’s relay to end family violence.”

Nine teams with names such as ”Men are from Mars,” “For The Heel Of It” and “Heels Back Busters” competed wearing heels of varying heights, some strapped to the feet by red or blue duct tape and some held in place by long athletic socks. Other fashion statements chosen by the men included multi-colored tutus, long pink wigs, and fishnet stockings.

Teams from J.B. Hunt, Mars, General Mills, Invision Family Chiropractic, the Rogers’ Police Department, the Rogers Fire Department and other individual teams participated in the event.

One of the J.B. Hunt teams named “When Heel Freezes Over” won the relay race and Christian Quie, of the “Pillsbury Dough Heels” team, won the “walk-off” competition. “Walk-off” participants paraded pageant-style before three judges and were rated on their hip action, strut, enthusiasm and gracefulness.

Amber Lacewell, outreach director for the Women’s Shelter, said that this is a men’s event because domestic violence won’t end until men work to help solve the problem. 

“We know that domestic violence is not going to end and we’re not going to make a difference without having men on board and it (Champions in Heels) is a great way to get men involved,” Lacewell said. “It’s an event for men, about men. Women aren’t participating besides helping to run the show and cheer their guys on. It’s really about men taking a stand.”

Lacewell also said the event raises awareness about the women’s shelter.

“We’ve been in existence for over 25 years,” she said. “A lot of people don’t know we exist. So, (Champions in Heels) is a great way to get the word out.”

John McGee, executive director of the Women’s Shelter, said their facility is a 30-day emergency shelter, based on the empowerment model. He said victims of domestic abuse who are homeless come to them for safety and for help in moving on with their lives. He said that the shelter provides safety in a time of crisis and also continues to provide assistance after the victims leave the shelter.

Merritt Royal, development director for the Women’s Shelter, said they don’t turn anyone away and they serve Benton, Washington, Madison and Carroll counties, as well as surrounding states.

“We serve about 550 clients annually,” Royal said.  “Just under half of the clients we serve are children.”

McGee said there are 30 people at the shelter but two weeks ago there were as many as 55 to 58.

In addition to free emergency shelter, food and clothing to victims of domestic violence, the shelter also provides a free 24-hour crisis phone line, court advocacy, Spanish bilingual services, children’s advocacy and programming, community education, support groups, counseling and a volunteer program, according to their website.

About 150 people, including runners, attended the event and participated in activities ranging from children’s games to face painting to free snacks.

Invision Family Chiropractic, Snyder’s-Lance, Collective Bias, General Mills, First Security Bank, Chambers Bank, Maple Hurst Bakery, the Whistler Group, Coca Cola, Rush Running and Simmons Bank, participated as sponsors of the event. Sarah Lilygren, executive vice president of corporate affairs for Tyson Foods, was the honorary chair of the event.

The signature fundraiser for the Northwest Arkansas Women’s Shelter is Fresh StART, a silent auction of art, to be held this year on Oct. 3 at The Grand at 117 in Rogers.