I knew it happened, especially in other countries, but here in the Rockford area? Honestly it was hard to believe what I was hearing on the phone.
At first the teachers were puzzled. Little “Mia” seemed to love school, but she only came on certain days. The teachers knew life at home was not easy, but school seemed
to provide stability, meals, warmth on cold days, and caring teachers. So why was she missing so many days from school?
Mia was missing school because she did not have her own pair of gym shoes. She had a cheap pair of flip flops that she wore when the weather was warm and she had a pair of winter boots. However the gym shoes she wore were shared with a sibling. Some days, especially during the fall, Mia would get to wear the gym shoes and attend school. Other days it was her sibling’s turn and Mia would stay home. Mia was missing out on a chance to learn as well as a hope for a different and better future.
Teachers are truly on the front lines and see things that many of us do not. They see needs that we sometimes do not know even exist. Even after a need is identified, how can teach-
ers help meet every need of the estimated 900 homeless students in the Rockford area? This past August, Youth Services Network contacted Annie’s Locker for help in getting
gym shoes for the hundreds of needy students in Rockford area. Right in line with our mission to collect and distribute new and gently used fitness gear for people (adults and children) in need, this was right up our alley; we set an ambitious goal to obtain 500 pairs of brand new youth gym shoes in a month’s time. Through cash donations and new shoe donations, we met our goal of sending 500 students into the new school year on a good foot – with proper shoes!
After distributing shoes to her students, one local principal followed up with us, “Many times our students have needs that are not met at home, and we are always looking for donations. The shoes we received were not only brand new, but also VERY attractive for our little ones! It means SO MUCH to our staff, students, and parents that there are organizations such as yourself that assist with the needs of our schools.”
For Mia, hope came in the form of a pair of gym shoes that she could call her very own. Not only did the shoes allow her to come to school but give her the opportunity to run and play. Numerous studies have found that children who are physically fit absorb and retain new information more effectively than children who are out of shape! Not only that, other studies show the more physically active children are, the more likely they are to have a healthy weight, stay active and maintain a healthy weight through adulthood.
We hope you will join us and become an angel for someone in need. That someone may be a boy like “Tyler”, who cut open the front of his gym shoes. This is not a new fashion trend as seemed at first, but a necessity. Like most children, Tyler is a growing boy with growing feet. However, his family does not have the means to buy him bigger shoes so Tyler got creative and cut off the front of his shoes. This gave his cramped toes a little more time in his pair of gym shoes.
Yes, this happens in Rockford and the surrounding areas. We are thankful that with the help of our angels, Annie’s Locker was able to help students at 33 elementary schools with over 500 pairs of gym shoes through our 2013 Share a Pair program. Let’s not stop there, let’s continue to spread the wings of hope.
– Eva Magnusen, Annie’s Locker Advocate