Hillside Students Get Gift of Footwear
By Dianne Alward-Biery
Cleaver Staff Writer
Copyright Clare County Cleaver
HARRISON – When does the germ of a good idea become a high quality reality? And is it worth all the effort required to bring that small dream to fruition? Those two questions were answered with gusto April 5 at Harrison’s Hillside Elementary School. How? By the actions of some exceptionally kind-hearted people who are highly motivated to simply “do good” in the world.
Those people are part of the Thrive Church of Mount Pleasant. For three years now, Thrive has assembled donations to create a Shoe Day for school children, a day where every child in that school receives a new pair of Adidas athletic shoes.
David Martin Stevens of Thrive, explained that his group has a special relationship with the Adidas company, which allows them to purchase the shoes at a cost of $32 per pair.
“It’s a great project,” Stevens said. “We love doing it.”
All the students at Ganiard Elementary School in Mount Pleasant were the recipients the group’s first year, and in the second year shoes were purchased for all elementary school children in both the Shepherd and Winn school districts. Stevens said that second year effort provided roughly 800 pairs of shoes.
“It’s funny,” Stevens said. “People ask why do we do this, and we say why not? We like to be for the community, not just in the community, and this is one way we do it. It takes money; the more that comes in, the more we can give.”
He said the fundraising happens quickly and that this year’s funds were raised in four to five weeks. Stevens said the project was made known at church and donations had sprung up from there. Stevens said the first $1,000 of donations came from people who don’t even live in Michigan or attend Thrive.
When the group settled on Hillside for this year’s project, Principal Andrea Andera did not have to be convinced.
And so, the Hillside gym became a huge shoe store, outfitted with stacks of shoe boxes and two large tables laden with brand new socks. There also were several circular groupings of out-facing folding chairs where the 60-plus church members and volunteers fitted students with their new shoes. Also in the shoe box was a note written personally to each child.
On such a special day, of course, children didn’t just wander into the gym to find a pair of shoes. Oh, no. They arrived in coordinated groups who were ushered down the stage steps and into the gym, where they were greeted by a gauntlet of smiling adults and high-fives.
Associate Pastor Matt Moore described the event as the church’s way to serve a practical need.
“This is one of our favorite days,” Moore said. “It’s such a practical way to serve on them and love on them. Our goal is that they feel loved and valued. We think that’s the church’s role in the world. Kids are close to God’s heart, so they should be close to our heart.”
Moore brought a great deal of energy to the event, urging kids to “test out” their shoes to make sure they were “working properly” by hopping as high as they could, and then running around the gym to see if they were “fast enough.”
“We had one kid who put his shoes on, ran around to test them out, came back and said ‘I feel so alive!’” Moore said.
Andera, whose jaws literally were aching from all the smiling so much at seeing her students’ responses to receiving the their new shoes, said the school had very little to do with making the day happen. Andera said she was experiencing a full gamut of emotions, watching the group cheer and clap for her students, and knowing how special the event was making each of them feel.
“It’s a good problem to have,” Andera said. “Look at all their faces, they’re so excited. What an amazing thing, there is good in the world.”
Not all the lessons at a school come from academics. On this day, the children learned on a personal level that there are people in the world who care about the well-being of others, and who cared enough about them, specifically, to make this special day happen.
Anyone who saw the transformation happening in the Hillside gym that day, could have no doubt that this gift, this lesson in humanity, will be carried by all of the children throughout their lives. This was a truly special seed planted at Hillside, and like any seed it will need to be nurtured and cared for in order to grow to its full potential. The staff at Hillside knows this, and undoubtedly will continue working diligently to ensure those newly-clad feet are walking toward a positive future.