DADE CITY — When Orlando Rosales of Dade City heard that a local store was having a sale on women's shoes, he rushed out to buy a pair — for himself.
His pick: 3-inch white slingbacks — an impressive choice considering the challenge he faced: to take part in "Walk a Mile in Her Shoes," a domestic violence awareness march organized by Sunrise of Pasco, a domestic violence shelter.
"I'm doing it as a favor for my little sister, who works for Sunrise," Rosales said. "I help her whenever she needs me. I'd do anything for her."
And helping women was the theme of the march, which took place Saturday at the Dade City Courthouse. Volunteers gathered before the march to hear from speakers, including Terry McKay, the husband of Sunrise worker Carolyn McKay.
"We are here to change perspectives, to unite to end violence, to show that services are available and show women they are not alone," he told the group.
The march drew close to 100 people, many decked out in purple, the color of domestic violence awareness.
"I'm surprised, and I'm a little overwhelmed," said Christina Bates, the community change organizer for Sunrise. "It exceeded all my expectations. The community really came together to make a powerful statement."
And the statement was powerful — albeit painful for many of the male participants.
"It reminds me of wearing cowboy boots, but they hurt a little more," said Mark Nolte of his size 13 purple heels, which he bought at a swap meet in Zephyrhills. He paired his heels with navy blue stockings, which Nolte said looked "worse than I thought they would."
But Nolte wasn't alone when it came to his fashion faux pas — in fact, most of the participants wore heels adorned with feathers and bedazzled with jewels.
"No one's shoes are as cool as mine," said Pasco Elections Supervisor Brian E. Corley, who marched in a pair of red platforms decorated with beads.
"The guys' shoes look so cute," said Sheila Brooks of Dade City, who was accompanied on the walk by her three daughters. Brooks' presence was a reminder of the toll domestic violence can take: Her mother was killed in 1982 in a domestic dispute.
"My daughters never got a chance to meet their grandmother, so as soon as I told them about the march, they wanted to walk, too."
And walk they did, along with the hundreds of other participants.
The march's oldest participant, 91-year-old Forrest "Frosty" Barks of Zephyrhills, held hands with his granddaughter, Tommy, as he marched along in his pink slippers.
The march was less of a walk in the park for other participants, including Mike Miller of Dade City, who braved black stilettos with pink bows. His pain was obvious.
"Yeah, it hurt. I'm sweating," Miller said of the march. "But it was worth it."
Miller came in second place in a shoe contest held after the march. Rosales came in first with his slingbacks, which were accompanied by purple ribbon ornately laced up his muscular calves. Nolte took third with his purple heels, which he said hurt his toes.
"I'm definitely feeling it," Nolte said.