- School District 49
Odyssey Students Receive Free Sneakers
More than 180 students at Odyssey Elementary School received a free pair of sneakers from the non-profit organization Samaritan’s Feet on Friday, Jan. 22.
Students were brought into the gymnasium in groups to hear the story of Emmanuel “Manny” Ohonme, the founder of Samaritan’s Feet. As a 9-year-old child in Nigeria, Manny received his first pair of shoes after winning a contest. The shoes sparked a journey that led him to college in America and a successful business career. He began the organization in 2003 to provide shoes and hope to those in need.
Amy Willis, dean of students at Odyssey, contacted Samaritan’s Feet after hearing about the organization at a seminar. “We got the call last semester.” She organized the project and contacted families about participating and shoe sizes.
“We were on a waiting list for two years,” said Willis. “The timing was perfect. With COVID and other situations, so many families are in need of a little extra help. With free shoes, families can spend that money on something else.”
Kyle Alexander, regional director of Samaritan’s Feet, said, “We want to provide hope and encouragement to the students, just as Manny felt when he received his shoes. With COVID, this is a challenging time for kids and parents alike. We can’t stop serving.”
Students were given a bag with the shoes, a pair of socks, a hygiene kit and a card for a free meal at Chick-fil-A. Some kids instantly pulled off their old shoes and put on the new ones. Others didn’t want to get them dirty. Some of the younger students needed help tying the laces. A few were too excited to try out their new shoes and jumped, danced and ran around the gym.
“I love seeing the smile in their eyes. So energetic. So proud of receiving something so special,” Willis said. “The message for the kids to dream big was great. Someone they don’t know cares about them. It encourages them that they can do anything.”
Odyssey received 300 pairs of shoes. The extra shoes will go to other students in the POWER Zone as well as some siblings of Odyssey students, according to Willis.
The shoe give-a-way was made possible by a grant from AmeriCorp for Martin Luther King Day of Service. Samaritan’s Feet gave away shoes in 20 cities across the nation. Friday marked the first time the organization was in Colorado.