Going barefoot for a cause

Shoe company hosts day to spread awareness of children without shoes

by Marlena Chertock, April 6, 2010

Untie those shoelaces, unzip those zippers and unbuckle those sandals. Feel the grass between your feet, the smooth brick on your heels and the carpeted classroom floors. Get ready to go barefoot on Thursday, April 8 for a day without shoes.

According to the “One Day Without Shoes @ Elon” Facebook group, 612 students will be taking part in TOMS Shoes third-annual One Day Without Shoes event.

High school and college students across the country, and the world will host barefoot walks and events to raise awareness about the impact shoes can make in a child’s life, according to TOMS Shoes Campus Programs Manager Autumn Peterson. She said there are currently more than1,000 barefoot walks and events set to occur across the country.

“It’s a day they hold every year where TOMS supporters go without shoes for the entire day to experience what the people (without shoes) feel,” Elon University sophomore and student representative for TOMS Shoes Sarah Houser said. “They can gain an appreciation for the shoes we get to wear every day.”

The event will occur on a more individual and personal level at Elon.

Houser said because she does not have a club she is not able to organize a big group to march without shoes together.

“I asked (the Kernodle Center) if I could hold the event and they said since I wasn’t a club I wasn’t allowed to,” Houser said. “But if I did PR myself, (that’s allowed). I’m currently in the process of getting a flyer approved.”

Students who want to participate will go through their day normally but barefoot, Houser said. She said participants often write “TOMS” on their feet so others realize they are going barefoot for a cause.

“I’m not really sure how the school’s going to react,” Houser said. “I don’t know if they have a big problem with students going barefoot in classes. I don’t think it would be a big problem. I think the worst would be people being told to put their shoes on before they enter a building. With the number of people I hear who are doing it I don’t see how they can catch everyone.”

Houser said she will throw a pair of TOMS in her bag just in case.

“A shoe company asking people to go barefoot?” founder Blake Mycoskie said in a press release. “I know it’s odd, but … we ask people to go the day, part of the day or even just a few minutes, barefoot, to experience what millions of children endure every day. Awareness and empathy are the catalysts of change.”

TOMS Shoes is a shoe company focused on improving the lives of children worldwide. Many children in developing countries do not have the money for shoes and some are barred from attending schools, according to the press release.
In 2006, Mycoskie created the company to “match every pair of shoes purchased with a pair of new shoes given to a child in need. One for One,” according to the press release.

“Other businesses should take (TOMS Shoes) as an example,” Houser said. “They’re helping the world and they’re helping the economy. A double concept.”

Houser said she has been trying to get a TOMS Shoes club started on campus.

“Elon is ridiculous with clubs,” Houser said. “I got the first step done. But the (Kernodle Center) said I needed more of a following. I don’t know how to prove to them, you can look around school and see everyone wears TOMS. I know I have a following I just don’t know how to convince them that.”

Houser said the main goal of the club would be to promote the cause, inform people about the diseases that come with not wearing shoes and show how TOMS Shoes is helping. Activities would include dances where students would be admitted if they wore TOMS Shoes, “style your sole” parties, where students would decorate a pair of white TOMS Shoes, documentaries and speakers related to the cause and mission and Elon’s own version of passing out shoes to local residents in need, according to Houser.

“It would also just be a group of people where we’d all have something in common,” she said. “And we’d all have something to relate to. We could each bring our own aspects of TOMS to the club.”

Houser said a freshman has applied for another student representative position at Elon.

“We’re going to have lunch and talk about developing the club even further,” she said. “That would be really great to have someone carry it on even if it doesn’t work out, to keep pushing.”

Houser has four pairs of TOMS. She said it is not an excessive amount.

“It sounds like a lot compared to some people but you hear nowadays there are people with 20 or 30 pairs. But then at the same time when you hear that kind of stuff how much is it belief in the cause? It’s become a trend now.”

She said she thinks the day without shoes will be a great way to see who’s actually passionate about the cause.