FAIRBANKS RANCH — Once a year, as long as he’s in town, Rancho Santaluz resident Mike Zill breaks out a pair of mid-chunky, closed-toe heels, and walks one mile in downtown San Diego. He’s learned to bring two pairs — one for the pictures and one for the walk.
“A lot of guys go full blown with the stiletto, super tall,” Zill said. “I think I’d break my ankle if I tried to walk too far.”
Zill is not the only guy taking the challenge. For the past 10 years, hundreds of men and women alike have participated in the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event, hosted by the San Diego YWCA.
Coming up on Oct. 13, the walk is a part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and raises money for the YWCA’s domestic violence shelter, Becky’s House. While all are welcome to walk, men especially are encouraged to strap on a pair of heels in support.
“We’ll do whatever it takes to get people interested, and to get them to donate to a worthy cause,” Zill, a former biotech executive who’s been involved for the past four years, explained.
Founded in 1978, Becky’s House offers temporary housing, legal services and other programs to help survivors of domestic violence establish independence.
“All of this transcends into an opportunity to build a new life for yourself so you do not have to return to your abuser,” Heather Finlay, YWCA CEO, said.
In San Diego County, more than 17,000 domestic violence cases were reported to police in 2017, according to the YWCA’s website. That number does not include cases that go unreported due to fear or isolation within the relationship. Finlay said that 98 percent of individuals who get help from Becky’s House do not return to their abuser — but they first need to know that those programs exist.
“Ensuring that the community and individuals understand that there is help out there and that you’re not alone in that situation is incredibly critical and meaningful,” Finlay said.
The Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event also helps cover the costs of the Becky’s House programs and services. Finlay said they also use the event to bring more men in on the conversation surrounding domestic violence.
“Without men, we’re not going to eliminate domestic violence in our community,” Finlay said. “We wanted to get them involved in a light-hearted way, so that’s why we have men walking in women’s shoes.”
Zill is one of the men who grabbed his heels and embraced this cause. Over the years, he’s raised tens of thousands of dollars for Becky’s House. A visit to one of the shelters, Zill said, helped show how necessary the work is.
“When you visit and talk to people who have been through the program, you think about your sister, your brother or your family in that situation,” Zill said. “You understand this is a very necessary thing, and we should be doing more of this.”
The YWCA Walk a Mile in her Shoes fundraiser takes place from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13 at the MLK Promenade Park in Downtown San Diego.
If you or someone you know is in an abusive situation at home, call the 24-hour hotline, operated by Becky’s House, at (619)234-3164.