DEGRAFF — For those old enough to remember, Mars Blackmon knew that his main man Money had a secret weapon that provided Money with amazing, wondrous superpowers: It must be the shoes.*
For those of you not old enough to remember, Money’s secret weapon remains the same today as it was 20 years ago: Shoes.
For proof of that statement, kindly turn your attention to Buckner International, which as part of its huge Christian charitable network collects new shoes and distributes the footwear all over the world to places where these basic necessities – shoes – are almost non-existent. Buckner International’s Shoes for Orphan Souls has provided more than three million pairs of new shoes to children and adults in 80 different countries since 1999.
With this in mind, the Interact Club at Riverside will be collecting footwear as payment to for a free seat at the high school boys’ basketball game against Lima Temple Christian Friday, Dec. 11, in DeGraff. The shoes and socks, with the help of the Bellefontaine Rotary Club and Buckner International, will then make their way around the world, possibly ending up in Peru, Papua New Guinea or one of another hundred places where shoes, something we too often take for granted here in the Heartland, are sorely needed.
One can still pay to get into the Pirate/Pioneer game with old fashioned dollars, but a pack of three pairs of new athletic socks will get you a seat just the same and maybe help out a kid in South Sudan. And a family a four that brings in a pair of shoes to the game — brand-new, closed-toed athletic, tennis shoes or sneakers — gets the whole quartet in just for kicking in the kicks. Cash donations will also be accepted by the Riverside Interact Club if one can’t make it to the shoe store prior to the game.
“It’s a fantastic idea,” said Stacy Fauley, who is the adviser for the Riverside Interact Club. “You’d never think of donating shoes, but when you think about it, you know the shoes are going to be used by somebody, somewhere. It’s wonderful!”
Fauley, who is the Riverside High School science teacher, said her research showed that something as simple as a pair of tennis shoes (a term which in Ohio includes everything from Air Jordans to cheap-o deck shoes) can help improve the overall health of a child who may walk a mile or two back and forth to school every day. Aside from from the ongoing danger of cuts and infection, bare feet are favorite targets for insects and arachnids and a very common way for dangerous parasites to enter the body. Shoes keep the kids healthier, allowing them to attend school regularly. The same goes for the parents of these same children. Shoes can help them keep a job and continue to earn their daily bread. It’s a connection that the vast majority of us would never make, but once pointed out makes perfect sense. Fauley also likes the idea that something tangible — in this case shoes — is being solicited rather than money.
“The shoes we collect are going to end up on the feet of both kids and adults,” Fauley said. “They are going to be put to use.”
The Bellefontaine DECA and the Benjamin Logan Interact Club have scheduled similar events with bragging rights going to the school that collects the most shoes, but the competition is in good fun and the students and adults alike know that its all about stockpiling footwear.
The Interact Club is asking for shoes from sizes Youth 1 to Adult 9.
Tennis shoes (aka sneakers, athletic/running shoes, kicks) are the preferred footwear for donations because they are lightweight, easily cleaned and maintained, and durable. With this in mind, it’s a safe bet that if you like neon green soles with orange laces on your running shoes, so will that 50-year-old taxi driver in Sao Paulo or the teenage student in Lagos. Shop accordingly.
*Acclaimed joint director Spike Lee did a series of Nike commercials with Michael Jordan during the height of MJ’s athletic powers two decades ago. Lee’s character “Mars Blackmon” marveled the airborne antics of “Money” (played by guess who), surmising that his superpowers came from the kicks: “It must be the shoes.”
Tom Stephens is a regular contributor to this newspaper.