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New, proper-fitting shoes can go a long way toward helping kids succeed in school.

In 1992, Elodie McGuirk heard a story from an elementary school teacher that wound up changing her life—and the lives of thousands of kids. One of the teacher’s students had been crying about his aching feet. His parents couldn’t afford to buy him a bigger pair of shoes, so they turned his toes under to fit in the old pair. And that student wasn’t alone—lots of kids at the school were in desperate need of new shoes. McGuirk contacted the principal and went to the school to measure the feet of all of the children in need. Next, she reached out to colleagues at the college where she worked, asking them to donate a new pair of sneakers. Word spread, and soon people she didn’t even know were calling to see how they could help, too. Shoes That Fit was born.

Today, the Claremont, California–based organization works to provide new athletic shoes and socks to students in 1,200 schools nationwide. Communitybased volunteer groups (from places like churches, clubs, and schools) connect with Shoes That Fit to find schools that need help, and the organization provides them with start-up kits to help them reach out to the schools, measure kids’ feet, and run successful shoe drives.

“We get letters from parents, teachers, administrators, and even the kids themselves, telling us how much a new pair of shoes has made a difference. There are improvements in school attendance and behavior, and the students feel better because their feet don’t hurt and they aren’t being teased,” says Shoes That Fit’s current executive director Roni Lomeli.

The organization also collects donations to buy shoes, and runs a backpack and school-supply drive in the Claremont area each fall. Lomeli hopes that program will expand to other communities.

If you’re interested in getting your community group involved, the process is simple. “All you need is a willing group of volunteers—we give you the start-up kit. And if you know a school in need, that’s great, but if you don’t, we can find you one nearby,” says Lomeli. “If we can get more people to do this in their own communities, we can help more children get the things they need.” Visit shoesthatfit.org for more information.

Reprinted from KIWI Magazine

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