Bits 'n' Pieces: Girl foots shoe-drive campaign

By Stover E. Harger III, Columbian neighborhood news coordinator

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Many kids wince at the thought of getting clothes for their birthday. But 8-year-old Teagan encouraged it.

The Vancouver girl was inspired last year while watching a snippet on the Disney Channel about another girl who donated shoes to orphanages. It gave her an idea.

Teagan asked her mom, Ashley Carper, if instead of guests bringing typical presents to her birthday party, they could bring shoes for the needy.

"I was surprised," Carper said. "I thought that's the sweetest thing I've ever heard."

At first Carper thought her daughter might lose interest in her newfound charitable pursuit well before her November birthday rolled around. But Teagan didn't.

"She stuck to it," Carper said. "I was really proud of her for that."

Family and friends brought 31 pairs of shoes to Teagan's party. Including other pairs that were sent after the celebration, the family now has more than 70 pairs piled up in their Hazel Dell garage.

"I got lots of cute girl shoes and boots and tennis shoes," Teagan said. "I hope that people who get the shoes are happy."

It was supposed to end there, but it didn't.

Teagan and her mother have now kick-started a much larger plan -- aligning with the international nonprofit Soles4Souls to not only try to collect 25,000 shoes that would be sent to fulfill a need in third-world countries, but also distributed here at home.

It's a monumental mission, but Carper said she and her girl are hoping it'll take off. At least they can try their best, she said.

"It's a lofty goal, but I just thought if we could get some businesses in the area involved, we can give it a shot," Carper said.

The pair have been reaching out to local shops to see if they would set up shoe donation boxes in their lobbies. There's been some interest, but nothing has really taken off yet, Carper said. They plan to push harder in the community and on social media now that the holiday season is wrapped up.

"I've got a couple of 'no's' which is unfortunate," Carper said.

This isn't the first time young Teagan has expressed an interest in helping others. Last year, Carper said her daughter began to comment on how sad it was to see homeless people with pets living on the street. Teagan worried the animals weren't getting enough to eat, so with her mom's help, she wrote a letter to a dog food company asking for samples to distribute to homeless around the area. She didn't hear back, but the thought made Carper proud.

"I like to help people," Teagan said.

Learn more about Soles4Souls at www.giveshoes.org.