Gotta Have Sole Foundation donates brand-new footwear to infants, children and teens living in homeless shelters throughout the US.
I started Gotta Have Sole Foundation, Inc., in 2010 to donate brand-new footwear to children in homeless shelters throughout the US. The mission of my organization is very important to me. Gotta Have Sole educates and empowers young leaders across the country to recognize the face of homelessness in America, and respond by taking action to first donate new properly fitting shoes, and then to create complimentary athletic and social opportunities for homeless youth. Through the new footwear and these equal opportunities that are afforded to them, Gotta Have Sole improves the dignity of homeless and disadvantaged children.
When I was five I began to visit children in RI's homeless shelters. The children aughed and played like I did, but their families had fallen on hard times. Many children didn’t have footwear or had sores from wearing shoes that were too small. I was dismayed that children shared shoes with family members, often missing school because it wasn’t their turn to wear shoes that day.
Determined to help, I began donating my geently used clothing and shoes to the children. On one delivery, a boy took a pair of my boots, which were too big for him. While the child was satisfied because he had footwear to call his own, I was bothered that I didn’t have his proper size and vowed to someday donate new, correctly sized footwear to these children.
Seven years later in 2010 when I was 12, as part of my bar mitzvah I created Gotta Have Sole Foundation, so I could donate new footwear to children in RI’s homeless shelters. I believe that homeless children deserve new shoes to break in themselves and that they should be given the same opportunities as other children, going to school and participating in sports and social programs. New footwear also helps children fit in better with their peers and increases their self-esteem.
Since 2010, I have donated new footwear to over 23,500 children living in homeless shelters in 35 states. I give them new footwear every time their feet grow, hoping to alleviate the financial burden on the families. Parents and shelter advocates say that the new footwear has dramatically improved the children’s lives. They attend school more regularly, participate in social and sports programs, and feel better about themselves.
One mother shared her feelings, “Words do not do justice to the depth of gratitude in my heart towards you. My daughter and I are living at a shelter. We left with the clothes on our backs. My daughter grew out of her shoes and I thought to myself, “God will provide.” He has and in a big way through you. Your generosity moves me to tears. When we get on our feet financially I will donate to your foundation.” Letters like this are sent to me frequently and motivate me to continue with my mission.
I am proud to say that through Gotta Have Sole Foundation, I have helped over 23,000 homeless children in the US, and have worked hard to raise awareness about youth homelessness as well as the importance of volunteering. Over 2700 volunteers have held shoe drives, packaged footwear, and have helped make deliveries. My hope is that people will see the importance of giving back to their communities and that children will understand that they have the power to make a difference in the world.
I am determined to help as many children living in homeless shelters in every state by the time I graduate high school in 2016. I am advocating for their equality and hope to open up more opportunities for them. Saving “soles,” one step at a time is my mission.
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