COLUMBIA — Kids need shoes.
Shoes That Fit, a national organization that provides shoes and clothes to children in need, has been adopted by several Columbia businesses to provide children with shoes.
Pro Fitness, Hy-Vee, Mediacom and OnMedia, Mediacom’s cable TV ad sales subsidiary, will provide children in 19 Columbia elementary schools with a new pair of shoes through contributions from the community.
Mediacom and OnMedia began sponsoring the charity in 2002 with the help of David Wolf, a senior account executive at OnMedia. Even as an adult, Wolf understands the pride that accompanies a nice pair of shoes. It’s a feeling he thinks all kids should experience.
“Every individual shoe makes a difference to one child,” Wolf said. “It really helps their self-confidence.”
The process of finding the right pair of shoes starts when teachers and home-school communicators, who make sure a child’s home life and mental health are conducive to learning, identify children in need.
The children in need are often wearing shoes that are too small and in disrepair.
“You can’t believe how worn out some of these shoes are,” Wolf said.
The home-school communicators ask permission from parents for their children’s involvement in the charity. The communicators then fill out donor cards supplied by OnMedia with the age, sex, shoe size and school of a specific child. The child’s name is not listed.
Jean Andrews, home-school communicator at Lee Elementary School, said parents appreciate the assistance from the school.
“The parents are very pleased and excited about the program,” Andrews said.
Andrews has already measured 60 children’s feet this year for the charity.
The donor cards are then handed over to Mediacom, Pro Fitness and Hy-Vee, where customers can pick them up. The customers purchase a pair of shoes that match the donor card’s information and return the card and shoes to the business where they picked up the card. Customers are encouraged to buy sneakers because of their durability and universal use. The shoes are all brought to Mediacom, where home-school coordinators and school counselors pick them up and distribute them privately to the kids.
Andrews said the distribution is like Christmas.
“You’d be surprised how new shoes can make a child’s face light up,” Andrews said.
Tara Collier, home-school communicator at Field Elementary School, said the students take pride in their new sneakers.
Participation in the charity has gradually increased since it began six years ago. In 2005, 574 pairs of shoes were requested and bought. In 2006, that number increased to 786 pairs. So far this year, there are 437 shoe requests.
“Each year we see an increase in participation,” said Denise Munzlinger, an OnMedia employee. “A lot of people look forward to participating every year.”
Wolf said many local businesses have donated money to the charity. Some Columbia residents are also aiding the cause.
Monica and Kevin Salmons started a golf tournament three years ago to invite family and friends to help raise money. Golf and charity seemed to go hand-in-hand for Monica Salmons.
“It’s my personal conviction that all kids should have shoes that fit,” Salmons said. “Since I like to golf and my friends like to golf, the tournament seemed like a good way to combine these interests.”
The tournament, which was held at the A.L. Gustin Golf Course on Oct. 14, raised a total of $1,040. The tournament raised $300 in its first year.
With the money, the Salmons family picked up donor cards and bought 47 pairs of shoes at Shoe Carnival.
Other local fundraising groups that have participated over the years include the Missouri United Methodist Church, Missouri Auto Auction, Wal-Mart, Columbia Performing Arts Center and the fraternity Alpha Gamma Sigma.
Joe Thompson, owner of Pro Fitness, said his company’s involvement in the charity is simple.
“We just want to help the kids,” Thompson said.
OnMedia tries to have all of its shoe requests filled by mid-December.