New shoes and a new attitude

Who knew that getting a leg up sometimes just requires a new pair of shoes?

Some 30 students at Mark Twain Elementary received new kicks Wednesday compliments of community donations through Carson City's Soroptimist Club Whole Child Program.

Judging from the recipient students' high-stepping from the school's counselor's office/defacto shoe store and back into a schoolwide assembly, a new pair of shoes makes all the difference.

"I could try on shoes all day," said Ryan, 8, a second grader. Students' last names were kept confidential. "I got these ones from my older brother.

"I think it's about time I got some new ones."

Indeed, the shoes Ryan traded in had holes in the soles.

Hand-me-downs that have seen better days, shoes "worn down to the socks" and shoes too big or too small, were a commonality for students partaking in the free shoe program, said school counselor Shirley Oxoby.

"You know, it really is a great great thing for some families," Oxoby said. "Some of the families that get (help) through programs like this are not traditionally identified as a 'needs' family.

"But there are big families, families with two working parents, that are marginalized through the system. They don't qualify for a lot of aid. But an (independent) program like this, it really helps people."

Soroptimists collected 87 pairs of new shoes for elementary school students over one weekend at Topsy Lane's PayLess Shoe Source, president Kim Riggs said.

Big donors included a Tahoe man who lost everything in the Angora fire as well as a number of secretaries for the state legislature.

"It was buy one, get one-half off at the store," Riggs said. "So, many people bought two pair, but some bought as many as 12."

Riggs, who was on hand to push toes, squeeze arches and ask whether students preferred "purple or plain" socks, said this was the first year the program, in its eighth year overall, came directly to Mark Twain.

"We worked with the teacher(s) and of course the counselor's office," she said. "We decided to come directly to the school and help the kids here. In the past, we've had them come to Big 5 to get fitted - but many of them can't get transportation."

As Riggs fit a student with new, white sneakers and sent her off down the hall with that new-shoe squeak, volunteer Mary Sawyers explained how much she's seen the program impact students.

"We could be in here all day trying on shoes," she said. "The (students) are excited. And it's hard for that not to affect you.

"It's just a great feeling."

"Great" was the word second-grader Ryan last said as he was leaving the office to rejoin his classmates - clad in a brand-new pair of "skater" sneakers.

"These feel really good, and they look good," he said, eyeing another pair he tried on but wasn't able to keep. "Wish I could keep both of 'em."

• Contact reporter Andrew Pridgen at or 881-1219


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