Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress
Billy Bateman is a man on a mission.
Browsing through racks of dresses at the Second Glance Resale Store in Jacksonville on Thursday, Bateman sought just the right outfit to go with the black pumps he'll slip his feet into for the “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event slated April 20 in Jacksonville.
Wearing the heels won't be a problem, because after all, it's for the ones who have captured his heart: Victims of abuse.
“It's for the children, for the women who can't help themselves, who don't know where to go, what to do or how get help,” Bateman said. “Who better to help in the world anywhere than the children and the women? That's what this is all about.”
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, “one in every four women will experience domestic violence in her life,” and each year, “an estimated 1.3 women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner,” with women comprising 85 percent of domestic violence victims.
In addition, “30 to 60 percent of perpetrators of intimate partner violence also abuse children in the household,” the NCADV website states, adding that “the cost of intimate partner violence exceeds $5.8 billion each year,” with nearly 80 percent of that money directed toward medical and mental health services.
Cristina Franklin, clerical advocate for the Jacksonville office of the Crisis Center of Anderson & Cherokee Counties pointed out that “abuse can happen to anybody – upper class, middle class, lower class … anybody.”
Fundraisers like Walk A Mile help raise awareness by bringing to the forefront of people's minds such a delicate subject and encouraging people to contribute in the fight against abuse in their own quiet way.
And because entities like the Crisis Center are facing reduced funding from government sources they once relied primarily upon to operate, public support becomes imperative.
“In order for us to provide the type of services we need to provide to women and children – and even men, because there are men out there who are being abused as well – we need to have successful fundraisers so that we can have the staff, have the ability to provide those services,” Franklin said. “It's definitely going to make a hit (when government cuts go into full effect), so any fundraisers that can be done are a huge help to our work.”
Bateman became committed to the cause after striking up a conversation with Crisis Center executive director Donald Hammock, who described his work to him several years ago.
Inspired to help, last year the Carey Lake Ranch manager brought ranch/River Run Mud Park owner Rock Bordelon on board with the idea to host a special late November hunt on the ranch. Professional baseball players Micah Hoffpauir, Andrew Cashner and Josh Tomlin – whom Bateman described as “local boys who (had) gone on to become successful athletes but know how important it is to support (their) hometown and hometown organizations like the Crisis Center – threw their name behind the event, which was aired on the Sportsman Channel and the Pursuit Channel.
The fall hunt also featured a catfish/exotic wild game dinner and auction that pulled in an estimated $27,000 for the Crisis Center.
Bateman's got the whole-hearted support of Bordelon and a group of his colleagues from Louisiana, as well as local backing, for the Walk A Mile.
“Of course, it's gone crazy – they're saying, 'Billy Bateman in a dress and high heels?'” he smiled. “But the whole thing about this is that we're letting the people know about the Crisis Center.”
He also is taking his cause to cyberspace, to his Facebook page (“Billy Bateman) as well as posting Thursday's shoe-shopping excursion on YouTube.
“I hope YouTube alone can meet – or beat – what we're doing here and on the radio,” he said, later adding as his sister filmed him using her camera phone, “you know, I'm gonna have to practice – I can't feel my toes.”
This year, the Jacksonville walk starts at 9:30 a.m. April 20 at Sadler's Kitchen, where the men in heels will gather earlier that morning for breakfast. Among them will be Hammock, Cherokee County Sheriff James Campbell and Sadler's owner/Jacksonville mayoral candidate Rob Gowin.
The Palestine event – slated the following week on April 27 – will feature the local district attorney and sheriff, Franklin said.
This is the second year the national event will be hosted in Cherokee County; last year, approximately 30 participants raised funds in both Anderson and Cherokee Counties in two separate walks benefitting the crisis center.
“The challenge so far this year has been to get people to get involved,” Franklin admitted. “It's not a lot right now, and we're kind of struggling to get the walkers, but we've got until April 14 for guys to register.”
People also are encouraged to mosey alongside participants, encouraging them as they journey along the one-mile route in their heels.
“It's almost like a parade, and we'll have banners and signs,” she said. “Last year didn't have enough people to carry the sponsorship banners, so we just need as many people to help support the event. Also we need people to cheer everybody on, because after about half a mile, some of (the contestants) start dragging. ”
To raise even further awareness, Bateman is planning a quarter-mile “full-dress rehearsal – shoes, dress, everything” at Jacksonville High School's Mauldin Field, 7 p.m. Monday, April 8, and invited the town to watch.
“That's gonna be the peek show and we're building up” toward the event, he said.
The deadline to register for the event is April 14, and individuals can contact the local Crisis Center office at 903-586-9118 for more information.
Entry forms also are available at Jacksonville's Crisis Center office, 700 E. Cherokee, as well as the Facebook page “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes 2013 – Jacksonville, Cherokee County” Facebook page and at website www.mycrisiscenter.com.