UCA athletes and coaches distributed new socks and shoes to approximately 225 recipients as part of the “Shoes of Hope” event in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 12.
The UCA Student-Athletes Advisory Committee partnered with Samaritan’s Feet International to host the event, which lasted from 3-7 p.m. at the True Holiness Saints Center in Conway.
At the event, volunteers washed the feet of needy children and the elderly before distibuting the new shoes. Recipients included Conway and Bethlehem House residents.
Junior midfielder/forward Brooke Ballard was one of the many athletes who participated in the event.
“I’ll never forget the look on the little girl’s face when I showed her the brand new shoes she was getting,” Ballard said. “It’s a great feeling being able to affect people’s lives by doing such a small thing such as sacrificing a few hours on the weekend.”
Samaritan’s Feet Communications Specialist Deni Avant said washing the feet is symbolic.
“It’s just an opportunity for us to serve them while spending time getting to know the person, encouraging them and just hearing about their dreams,” Avant said.
“Shoes of Hope” was one of 11 shoe distributions held across the United States in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. An estimated 3,700 pairs of shoes were given away nationwide.
The goal of Samaritan’s Feet is to provide 10 million pairs of shoes to children in the next 10 years, according to its website.
Since the organization’s founding in 2003, more than four million pairs have already been distributed in more than 60 nations, 1.1 million of which were donated during 2013 alone.
“We refuse to accept the fact that the almost three billion people living in poverty are hungry, don’t have access to healthcare and can’t afford education and basic articles of clothing and shoes,” the website states.
In a promotional video filmed during the “Shoes of Hope” event, Samaritan’s Feet Director of Development Graham Gibbs said while it was great that people were getting new shoes, the day was really about serving.
“One of the greatest examples we’ve been given about serving leadership is by Jesus, who washed the feet of his disciples,” Gibbs said. “It’s really just an opportunity for us to serve others in a very unique way, a way they really don’t forget. It’s powerful not only for the volunteer, but also for the recipient.”
The video is available on the UCA Athletics YouTube page.
Natalie Shock, UCA assistant athletic director and SAAC adviser, said the UCA SAAC has been working with Samaritan’s Feet for two years now, putting on events such as pancake breakfasts and participating in their “Barefoot for Bare Feet” program.
“Athletes from all sports are going out all the time and helping around the community,” Shock said. “Just in September, UCA athletes from all teams performed over 470 hours of community service.”