The Calgary Journal
The Calgary Journal

Loyal participant encourages Calgary men to kick up their heels to help fight domestic violence

YWCAThumbHundreds of men will put their best stiletto forward at Calgary’s 11th annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes on Sept. 20 to raise funds for the YWCA.

The organization — which operates the Sheriff King Home emergency shelter in Calgary — provides high heels for participants who sign up individually, or as a team, to walk through downtown Calgary with each person committing to raise $1,000 for the cause.

Ken Tsui, a management consultant, has been a loyal participant since 2009 with his team dubbed “Mini”. The team consists of members from the Mini Club of Calgary, a collection of drivers who enjoy their Mini Cooper cars while also getting involved in local events and giving back to Calgarians in need.

Tsui says after the group participated in a YWCA’s “Stuff a Mini” event, Joanna Domes, development officer at the YWCA, suggested the team should sign up for Walk a Mile.

This will be the Mini team’s ninth year in the event, with the group having raised just under $110,000 in the first seven years of participation, and an estimated $10,000 from last year’s event.YWCABody1Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi gave Ben Tsui and his Mini team the first place trophy in 2015. Tsui says he appreciates that the mayor “comes out to the event, has worn heels himself, and supports the walkers.” Nenshi has also helped with judging during the event. Photo by Neil Zeller

“The cause itself is so worthwhile,” Tsui says, “it kind of tells its own story.” He feels fortunate working in a corporate downtown setting with a captive audience. Raising funds for the event isn’t always easy, however, and Tsui wonders what the donations will look like given the current downturn in the economy.

Still, Tsui is passionate about the cause and the impact funds raised will have at the YWCA. According to their annual report, YWCA was able to support more than 6,700 individuals in 2015 by providing safe refuge, transitional housing, counseling, education, and child development services, including 488 women and children who spent at least one night at the Sheriff King Home.

“Unfortunately the issue still exists. If anything, its grown,” Tsui says of domestic violence in Calgary. “Last year was the 10th year having the event, and the numbers [of those women and children seeking help] have not gone down. The need is there.”

Andrea Camacho, special events coordinator at the YWCA, said in an email that the Calgary Police Services received more than 18,000 domestic conflict calls and reported an increase in violence and intensity of violence against women in 2015.

It is this knowledge that inspires Tsui and his team to come back every year. He says his team has “been fortunate enough to be the top fundraiser for the last two years.”

Tsui hasn’t been personally impacted by family violence, though he says that shouldn’t be a deterrent for other men getting involved.

“It’s so easy to turn a blind eye when it’s not in front of your face, when it isn’t an immediate family member.”

While it may be easy to turn a blind eye, Tsui says men aren’t the only ones who can get involved. Although the stroll is for men only, women can “encourage their men to step up and walk the event.” And if walking the event is impossible, fundraising is not too far of a stretch. He says there isn’t anything unique about the Mini team, and they aren’t backed by a big business.

“We’re literally just a handful of guys.”

YWCABody2Ben Tsui (holding the flag) and his Mini team are joined by hundreds of men in high heels for a walk along Stephen Avenue to raise funds for the YWCA of Calgary. Photo courtesy of Neil Zeller

Tsui remembers the days when the event required participants to only do a couple laps around Olympic Plaza, although that changed last year. The men start their walk at Banker’s Hall on Stephen Avenue and then walk to Olympic Plaza.

“It’s a lot longer, so we really [have] to earn that mile badge!” laughs Tsui. Participants who complete the walk receive a badge to celebrate their success.

Although Tsui believes donor fatigue — especially in the current economy — and lack of awareness keep men from participating, he encourages people to get involved in any way they can.

Pengrowth Energy Corp. was the event’s former title sponsor, but Camacho says the YWCA is just as excited to work with Shoppers Drug Mart as their current presenting sponsor as they were working with Pengrowth.

“The need is still there unfortunately,” Tsui says. “So, can we as individuals help as much as we can?”

To learn more or to register for the event, visit www.walkamile.ca.

To join Ben Tsui’s Mini team for the event, visit @CalgaryMINIClub on Facebook.

Thumbnail photo by Neil Zeller

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.