SAN DIEGO -- Hillcrest is a few steps closer toward being a bit more colorful thanks to an army of high heel stomping community members and other donors who participated in and supported the Amazing High Heel Race.
More than $25,000 was raised as a result of the effort, which included a combination of donations from event participants and "legacy contributions" from four local business owners.
The June 18 event was organized by management and staff of Urban Mo's, Baja Betty's and Gossip Grill in collaboration with the Hillcrest Business Improvement Association (HBIA) and Hale Media, Inc., to help fund beautification projects in the Hillcrest community. The proceeds from this year's race are being donated to help fund the installation of a 65-foot flag pole, which will fly a rainbow flag year round, at the east end of Hillcrest where Normal Street begins at University Avenue.
Johnathan Hale, president and CEO of Hale Media and co-chair of the flag project, said he believes that the rainbow flag will be a great addition to the neighborhood, which is historically known as the center of San Diego's large LGBT community.
"The flag will be an enduring symbol of the importance of the LGBT community in the past, present and future of Hillcrest," Hale said. "For miles around people will be able to see this symbolic flag, a symbol of pride for those of us who live and work in the neighborhood, and a symbol of solidarity against any group seeking to strip us of our basic human rights."
Many participants of the Amazing High Heel Race said they were pleased to be able to be a part of a fun event that raised money for something that will provide important visibility to the LGBT community.
"I always love doing things for a great cause and to me, erecting a permanent pride flag in our 'gayborhood' is a great cause," said Joseph
Sims, who regularly supports a number of community organizations, causes and sports leagues, including the San Diego American Flag Football League.
Participants win "big" awards
Sims participated in the race with a team of friends who called themselves the SD Call Girls and received the "honor" of having the "Biggest Heel."
According to event organizers, Sims, who participated in the race as "Misty Scott," had two "girl down" episodes and had to use bright pink duct tape to keep her shoes from falling apart.
The SD Call Girls, who also won the award for "Biggest Cheaters" since they "rented a Limo Bus to get to point A to B while everyone else hoofed it on foot," created a website to promote their team's cause.
Top placing winners included:
- First Place Team: Mija Cochinas, consisting of team captain Jimme Read along with Dan Anderson, Anthony Aragon, and Rob Leyva;
- Second Place Team: Super Vixens, consisting of team captain Brandy Madrid along with Amanda Dougherty, Keley Heckman, and Katrina Anderson; and
- Third Place Team: SD Call Girls, consisting of Sims who served as team captain as one accompanied by Jonathan and Zach Hayes, John Dillon, Ryan Lee, and Mike Paganelli.
The SD Call Girls also received the "Biggest Blister" award as one team member's blister "popped and was bleeding all over the stage during awards."
Other "fun" awards included:
- Fiercest Heel: HeelBillies for "cute little heels with a bright blue bow"
- Most Team Spirit: Dubble Bumps for "creating a video to show their determination to win this race"
- Hottest Mess: Hollywood Tans for "one of the team members, during awards, was hanging on the fence with one arm up and propped so she wouldn't fall."
Sims, who enjoyed running through the neighborhood in his bright pink heels and is already planning to participate next year, said the event "really put some much needed flare back into HIillcrest!"
Proceeds from the event contributed $5,400 to the project.
Project receives much community support
Along with the money raised by the high heel race, four Hillcrest business owners each made $5,000 "legacy" donations to the project.
Donations from Nicholas Moede, owner of Number's and Rich's; Chris Shaw, owner of Urban Mo's, Baja Betty's and Gossip Grill; Cecelia Moreno, owner of Crest Café; and Johnathan Hale, publisher of San Diego Gay & Lesbian News and San Diego Pix Magazine, brought the fundraising total to $25,400.
Moreno, who volunteers on the HBIA's beautification committee, said she was pleased to make the donation on behalf of her employees and customers.
"I consider it an honor and a privilege to join forces with Johnathan, Nick and Chris to help get the GLBT flag pole project on a fast track," Moreno told San Diego Gay & Lesbian News. "I can think of no better tribute and celebration of our neighborhood and its beauty and strength than looking up and seeing this giant tall rainbow flag waving every day.
"It will simultaneously honor our past and remind us to continue to work hard for a brighter future and will personally remind me of how lucky I am to be part of the finest neighborhood in San Diego for the past (almost) 30 years!"
Dave McCulloch, who is a local community activist and board member of the Hillcrest Town Council, said he believes this project is good for the neighborhood.
"To me, it is beyond awesome that we have made so much progress towards this community project -- even when our City is in a budget crisis and when many of us are still struggling financially -- and further underscores the power of teamwork and volunteerism, McCulloch said. "With so many neighborhood groups, businesses and individuals coming together to upright the de facto symbol of the LGBT community, there's no limit to what we can accomplish. The power of our community never ceases to amaze me."
City Councilmember Todd Gloria, whose council district includes Hillcrest, said the neighborhood is the perfect place for such a monument, as it is home to San Diego's vibrant LGBT community.
"[Hillcrest] is the ground zero for LGBT activism and events," Gloria said. "The flag would be a fitting tribute to the neighborhood’s pride and its heart. It will serve as a symbol of our community’s diversity and inclusiveness to residents and tourists alike."
Sister Iona Dubblewyde, who participates in a number of community organizations, including San Diego Remembers, said the race was one of the most exciting events she has taken part in and is pleased with the turnout.
"I love the idea of a flag pole and possible new space," Dubblewyde said. "As a member of San Diego Remembers I think it would be an ideal spot for our planned hate crimes memorial and for our community to gather."
Michael Brennan of Urban Green will be the project's landscape architect and agrees with Dubblewyde that the space will serve as rallying point for the community.
"There is a great need for such a prominent public gathering place where we can unite and celebrate our past, present and future, and hopefully this flag will serve as a beacon to the entire community for generations to come," Brennan said.
The Hilcrest Pride Flag committee is continuing to raise money for the project and hopes to have the flag pole in place prior to San Diego's LGBT Pride celebration in July 2012.
Just a few years ago, the idea of creating a space for the largest pride flag in the city was just a vision, said Ken St. Pierre, director of sales and business development for Hale Media. "But thanks to Johnathan, Stefan, Cecelia, Nick, Chris and all the people who volunteered, supported and participated in The Amazing High Heel Race, the vision is becoming a reality," he said.
Call to action
If you are interested in contributing to the Pride Flag project please click HERE.
If you are interested in becoming a legacy donor and have your name or business recognized in a permanent installment at the base of the Pride Flag monument please contact Johnathan Hale at (877) 727-5446 EXT 704 or by email.
Additional photos from the event are available on SDPIX.