My life drastically changed in April of 1999. I participated in a village half marathon in Guatemala. Along the route of the run there were little children cheering us on. I could not help but notice the hot tar that they had applied to the soles of their feet because they had no shoes to wear. The images of their feet still haunt me today. On my return flight home to Chicago, I sat next to an American orthopedic surgeon who was visiting and told me that if the children had shoes to wear, he would not need to perform as many amputations of children’s infected limbs. When I got back home, I visited neighborhood schools and asked families to donate children’s shoes. I organized a shipment of shoes out of my garage and delivered them to Guatemala. I thought my work was done. When I was leaving, one of the workers at the orphanage asked when I was coming back. That question changed my life.
Since then, our organization has collected and distributed millions of gently worn/new shoes shoes throughout the world, targeting desperately impoverished areas in Central America, Southeast Asia, the Carribeans, Africa and the United States, including Native American Reservations. We have organized hundreds of shoe drives and warehouse site visits to clean, sort and pack shoes. (Worn-out shoes are discarded.) Volunteer groups at our warehouse have included businesses, church groups, Scout troops and schools.
If your corporation or organization would like to get involved, contact me today. I used to think shoes made lives kinder, but they also save lives. People in parts of Africa die from jiggers, worms, and thorns. In most Catholic schools in Central America, students are not permitted to go to school unless they have black school shoes. Shoes make a difference.