While many area students’ classes might look very different this year, one thing has not changed: their need for shoes.
One local organization is working to ensure that each student has a pair of quality footwear to help get them through the new school year.
Carolyn Terrell, project leader for Shoes for Kids, said she was struck by a student’s footwear while at an out-of-state event.
“I saw a kid wearing a pair of duct-taped shoes, and that broke my heart,” Terrell said. “I thought, ‘I can’t fix that for that child, but I can come home and make sure there aren’t duct-taped shoes in my community.”
Nine years later, Shoes for Kids is going strong, having partnered with area schools to offer shoe closets and taking steps to ensure no area children need to worry about the shoes on their feet.
“Children can’t run and jump and play confidently if they’re worried about their shoes falling apart,” Terrell said. “And if they don’t have the right shoes as a youth, it can lead to pain as an adult, or body deformities.”
According to epodiatry.com, poorly-fitted shoes in children can lead to several conditions as adults, including hammer toes, ingrown toenails and bunions.
With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Shoes for Kids had to change the way it reached students in need. In March, school counselors were given forms to distribute to children who needed shoes, Terrell said. When the students returned the forms to school, the counselors then passed that information on to Shoes for Kids.
“We reached out in July to give them an appointment time to come pick up their shoes,” Terrell said. “Due to COVID-19, we had to give people assigned times to keep the flow right, so it maintained social distancing.”
About 50 students picked up a pair of shoes during the distribution event, which took place on July 25. For those who couldn’t make it, a different day was scheduled.
“COVID definitely impacted the number of students who showed up,” Terrell said. “The numbers were lower, because there are some people who are still concerned about getting out.”
To make sure students’ needs are met, Terrell plans to partner with representatives from the three area school districts that Shoes for Kids serves.
“I have a group of people who are going to help with a think tank, to figure out how we can help students,” she said. “We’re not sure at the moment how to help, because while we have the distribution day in July, we also traditionally have seven established shoe closets. If students need shoes they can go to one of those closets. But without school in session, the question is how do we help students, and how do we know which students need help?”
To complicate matters, Terrell said, the shoes that children do have might not be the right size.
“It weighs on my mind, that there are needs that have possibly not been addressed because we’re not in a traditional setting,” Terrell said. “This is uncharted territory.”
But while COVID-19 may have made it more challenging to get the shoes into the hands of needy children, a recent fundraiser spearheaded by Terrell’s children did so well that the siblings are planning to make it into a regular event.
Incoming Yukon High School junior Alex Terrell, 17, and brothers Tony, 14; Andrew, 15; and Addin, 11; held a Nerf gun war at Chisholm Park in June. Their goal, Alex Terrell said, was to raise $100.
The brothers’ event brought in $800 instead. And when it costs about $20 for a quality, long-lasting pair of shoes, that $800 can go a long way.
“It went really, really well,” Carolyn Terrell said. “I’m really excited. As a parent, when your child wants to participate in anything you participate in, it’s an ‘I’ve done this right’ kind of moment, and it’s verification that they believe in what you believe in.”
Carolyn Terrell said her sons plan to host another Nerf war on Aug. 20, with more in the future if weather permits.
For now, Carolyn Terrell said the organization is working on utilizing Facebook for outreach.
“It’s just a year of ‘I don’t know’ for a lot of people, and that’s where I’m sitting,” she said.
For more information, find Shoes for Kids on Facebook at facebook.com/shoesforokkids.