SALEM, Ore. — Two years ago, Laurie Shaw, who for years has worked with youths, could not have predicted what a pair of good-fitting shoes could do for a kid.
That a pair of white Air Jordans could make an otherwise tough guy cry.
That some children go to school in shoes that are sizes too small.
That some kids have toes that won’t stretch to their natural length because they’ve been crammed in shoes long ago outgrown.
Until recently, it didn’t occur to Shaw and others what a pair of shoes could do for a child’s self-esteem and enthusiasm for physical activity.
A project started by a group of South Salem High School students is teaching the adults lessons.
One Thousand Soles is a shoe drive for youths started by Molly Edwards’ AVID class at South Salem High School. The project is in its second year, having increased its goal tenfold from last year’s One Hundred Soles. This year, the drive has collected 1,100 pairs of new and gently used shoes and almost $900 in donations. The drive ends Thursday.
“It’s never crossed my mind that their feet hurt,” said Shaw, Salem’s youth development and prevention coordinator. “This drive has opened our eyes to how great the need is. We’ve barely scratched the surface.”
Recently, elementary school children from across the region participated in a nearly four-decade Salem tradition, the Country Kids Relays.
Almost 50 of those runners competed in shoes distributed from the One Thousand Soles drive, which has collected 1,100 pairs of shoes and raised almost $900.
At Hallman Elementary School in Keizer, wearing shoes that fit was a new experience for some of the children, physical education teacher Carol Lindquist said.
“Some of those kids told me, ‘I feel like I’m flying on air,’ because the shoes felt so good on their feet,” she said. The kids are running better, but only part of that is because of the shoes. Mostly, they’re more confident and enthusiastic about running.