Students choose to go barefoot to help children who have no choice
February 22, 2012
Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269
MSUB students will be shedding shoes in April to help raise awareness of the need of shoes for children in developing countries. The program, open to all students, faculty and staff at the university, will be on April 10. Below is a photo of Patti Hellman, one the main organizers of the event.
‘One Day Without Shoes’ features shoe decorating, awareness; order TOMS shoes by March 1
MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — Chances are, when you look at your feet at any given point during the workday, they have some form of protection. Whether they be boots, an old familiar pair of Converse Chuck Taylor’s, fashionable pumps, slip-on loafers or even sandals, shoes are a customary part of nearly every American’s life.
But in mid-April, some Montana State University Billings students will be ditching their shoes for a day to help bring awareness to the plight of millions of children around the world who have no shoes. And if they have to make their way through snow, slush or gravel to do so, it’s worth it.
“It’s just one day,” said senior business major Patti Hellman. “People may look at me weird, but it starts a conversation.”
That conversation will focus on the need to put shoes on children who are at risk of hookworm, jiggers and podoconiosis, all debilitating diseases that affect millions of children in developing countries.
Spearheaded by Hellman and fellow students Megan Garza and Quincy Linhart and with assistance from Mary Ronan Williams, who directs Billings Catholic Campus Ministries programs at MSU Billings, the barefoot awareness challenge will be held on Tuesday, April 10 in conjunction with a worldwide “One Day Without Shoes” project. The effort was started by TOMS shoes founder Blake Mycoskie and drew 100,000 participants last year.
As part of its business model, TOMS sends a pair of shoes to a developing country for every pair purchased. The “one for one” movement has led to more than 1 million pairs of shoes being donated to children around the globe.
Hellman, who graduated from Chinook High School and has taken a leadership role in many MSU Billings awareness efforts, said many people — including college students — take living with shoes for granted. Few of their friends or family members have not had to walk for miles every day to get to school and clean water. Few of them have had to worry about rough paths, sharp objects, contaminated soil and the cold and heat.
And in some places where non-governmental entities are helping with education, shoes are mandatory as part of school uniforms. Without shoes, they can’t attend class.
“And if they don’t have education, they can’t get the jobs they need to improve their lives,” Hellman noted. “It’s just a vicious cycle.”
Garza and Linhart were familiar with the TOMS program before and asked Hellman if Student United Way would jump on board this year. It took about 45 seconds to be convinced, she said.
As a part of the MSU Billings “One Day Without Shoes” project, giving TOMS shoes will be easy. Anyone interested in taking part can stop by the Office for Community Involvement on the second floor of the Student Union Building between now and Thursday, March 1 to order a pair of TOMS white classics. Through a connection with a local business, the shoes will be sold for $40 a pair, a 10 percent discount.
With each order, a pair will be sent to children in a developing country on behalf of the MSU Billings effort.
Then, after people take part in the barefoot day of awareness on April 10, they will gather for a presentation and an opportunity to decorate the shoes they purchased at an evening social.
Hellman said the group hopes to art students involved in the end-of-day celebration to help “all of us artistically challenged people.”
To find out more about the MSU Billings “One Day Without Shoes” effort, contact Hellman at 406-399-3291 or Williams 406-850-4488. The official website for the day is www.onedaywithoutshoes.com and the MSU Billings students have a fan page on Facebook.