Friday September 21, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- Michael Hinkley was dressed for success at September's Third Thursday.

The attorney at Donovan and O'Connor sported a red tie, long-sleeve dress shirt and blue khaki pants.

Then, there were his sexy, ruby-red high heels.

Hinkley was one of about 200 guys that squeezed their large feet into women's footwear and walked -- strutted, rather -- up and down North Street in downtown Pittsfield for Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, an Elizabeth Freeman Center fundraiser to bring awareness to rape, violence and abuse against women.

"It's for a great cause," Hinkley said after finishing his mile and wobbling slightly in his heels. "I'm a little sore, but I'm happy to do it."

He also participated in the fundraiser last year.

"It takes a little getting used to, but you eventually find your stride," Hinkley said.

Local professionals, law enforcement, sports teams and men of all ages made up most of the walkers that sported various kinds of femme footwear, from flip-flops to sparkly stilettos that would look chic on a lady, but were outlandish on the hairy-legged gentlemen that wore them Thursday.

The walk started just after 6 p.m. next to Park Square.

Though domestic violence and rape is far from an upbeat topic, the atmosphere of Third Thursday's fundraiser brought light to the topic in a fun way. Lines of those not walking applauded, thanked, and even sometimes jokingly catcalled the men walking for the statements they were making against violence.

"This is a feel-good moment, and we don't get to have a lot of fun in our job," said Sue Birns, president of the Elizabeth Freeman Center, the only center of its kind in the Berkshires.

Attendance was doubled from last year's inaugural event, which raised $14,000. About $20,000 was raised this year.

Just like last year, Chin Lee and Sabrina Tan, owners of Flavours of Malaysia on North Street, won first place in most money raised. At $2,000 raised, they make up 10 percent of the total made this year.

"I was once a victim," Tan said. "A person shouldn't have to suffer in silence, and in Malaysia, you did. It's great to help, even if it's just one person."

Men in women's shoes was just one fashion statement made throughout Third Thursday's Passion for Fashion theme. A Mona Lisa look-alike was on hand to be photographed with participants. Models did their little turn on the catwalk in Palace Park near the Lichtenstein Center to showcase clothing options available by local businesses and made by local designers.

Several hundred men squeezed into women’s shoes and then marched to raise funds for the Elizabeth Freeman Center in their efforts to combat domestic
Several hundred men squeezed into women’s shoes and then marched to raise funds for the Elizabeth Freeman Center in their efforts to combat domestic violence against women. Organizers say the march raised about $20,000. (Ben Garver / Berkshire Eagle Staff)

"We're showing new and old fashion for everybody to see," said Megan Whilden, Pittsfield's director of Cultural Development. "A lot more stays in the community if you buy from local businesses."

The other fashion show was to showcase clothing opportunities from Goodwill in a fashion show called "Fashion for Less." A man showed off his brown business suit while two young girls sported cute dresses.

Frank Engels, the CEO for the Goodwill Industries of the Berkshires, said buying locally donated goods at a Goodwill completes a cycle that ultimately generates money for Goodwill programs.

He made the statement while wearing purple high heels.

"I feel really tall," Engels said. "It's all in the core. You have to stand up straight."

To reach Adam Poulisse:
apoulisse@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6214.
On Twitter: @BE_Poulisse

Jeannie Reilly-Ortega models fashion from Ancient Language on the makeshift runway on North Street. ‘Passion for Fashion’ was the theme for
Jeannie Reilly-Ortega models fashion from Ancient Language on the makeshift runway on North Street. ‘Passion for Fashion’ was the theme for September’s Third Thursday. (Ben Garver / Berkshire Eagle Staff)