By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer
With the new school year right around the corner, 200 children and youth from Yukon and Mustang have been selected to receive new shoes this Saturday.
Shoes For Kids will host its eighth shoe distribution from 9-11 a.m. July 27 at Yukon Public Schools’ administration building, 600 Maple.
The 200 kids who will receive free new shoes have already been selected; this distribution is not open to the public.
Recipients are appreciative of their new footwear, which will include a package of socks for each.
“It has become very meaningful to our families,” said Yukon’s Carolyn Terrel, Shoes For Kids’ team leader. “I often get texts from families thanking us. It is really fun to watch the children pick out their shoes. Some kids have never had a pair of new shoes. They can’t believe the shoes are for them.”
“We are having an impact on the families’ finances. We are also impacting the health and body structure of the child.”
Instead of giving away second-hand footwear, Shoes For Kids provides new, proper-fitting shoes to help the child’s feet grow correctly.
“Shoes that are too small can have a harmful impact on the child for the rest of their life,” Terrel said. “If the child’s feet doesn’t grow correctly, they can have lifelong pain and have career doors closed to them.”
Students who will benefit from the program this Saturday are from Yukon and Mustang schools and their siblings.
“Since we help elementary students and their siblings (who are) school-age and below, we have kids from birth to age 18; seniors in high school,” Terrel said
Shoes For Kids works closely with Mustang and Yukon schools to determine the children in need of new shoes. Several months in advance, school counselors help identify what students would benefit from the program.
Shoes For Kids’ representatives ask for the students’ names and probable shoe sizes.
Since August 2018, the program has provided almost 420 pairs of shoes to children in need.
“We have a two-part approach to helping the students and the schools,” Terrel said. “We focus on ensuring the kids who signed up have shoes and that there are shoes available to five schools that have shoe closets.”
Shoe closets have been established at Shedeck, Myers, Independence, and Lakeview elementary schools in Yukon; and one in Mustang. Another will be established in the Western Heights school district.
“These are schools who have indicated they have a need and the space to accommodate one,” Terrell said.
“We also have let the school counselors know that at any time in the school year if a child is in need, we will drop shoes by the school. The child picks the pair that fits the best and we bring the rest back to the church (Canadian Hills Church of the Nazarene).”
This marks the eighth year for the Shoes For Kids’ distribution day.
The program got its start when Terrel went to a school play for one of her nieces who was in kindergarten.
“I saw this little boy with a pair of duct-taped shoes,” Terrel said. “I can’t recall his face. I just remember the shoes. It broke my heart.
“How can a child run and jump and play in confidence, if they are worried about their shoes? I could not help that child, but I could ensure that the kids in my community could have access to comfortable, proper-fitting new shoes.”
Terrel presented the idea to members of her church, Canadian Hills Church of the Nazarene. They were in favor of it.
That first year, the program was funded by Vacation Bible School monetary donations and helped about 100 children.
PROVIDING HIGH-QUALITY SHOES
Today, donations of cash and shoes are welcome to support Shoes For Kids.
Shoes need to have either laces or Velcro so kids can participate in P.E. (physical education),” Terrel explained. “Cash donations can be made to Canadian Hills Church of the Nazarene with ‘Shoes For Kids’ in the memo line. Donations of shoes can be accepted, but you will need to call the church to set up a time to make sure someone is there.”
This year, Shoes For Kids has had help from Yukon First Church of the Nazarene, the Yukon Rotary Club, Canadian Hills Church of the Nazarene, and Terry’s American Heat and Air.
Shoes For Kids’ representatives purchase shoes throughout the year when they are on sale.
“Our goal is to provide high-quality shoes,” Terrel said. “We want a variety of styles. We want the children to have options and to take home a pair that suits their foot needs.
“Not every child will have the same needs, so a variety to choose from is important.”
Volunteers support the effort by bringing shoes to schools during the school year when counselors call and helping sort and inventory shoes.
Almost two dozen volunteers will help at this Saturday’s distribution.
“We have 200 kids coming through in two hours,” Terrel said. “The families and I also enjoy the help of interpreters. It makes communication much easier. I already have enough volunteers signed up for this Saturday.”