TAMPA, Fla. -- The cafeteria at Booker T. Washington Elementary School turned into a free shoe store for one fun, stylish morning.
Ten classes. One hundred fifty kids. Dozens of new Nike sneakers.
A teenager from Lithia and her hard-working friends handed out the pairs of shoes to students as part of her program called Soles Shaping Souls.
“You can’t put a price on this,” says Jaime Gerding, the school’s principal. “The kids are just thrilled that they have new shoes they can all their own.”
Camden Grant, an eight grader attending Randall Middle School, promised the first-graders in April they would receive free shoes for summer. She was moved to act after an earlier visit when she read to the kids and noticed some of their shoes were less than ideal.
Moved to service by the leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr., Camden initially hoped to raise $2,500 in order to buy 60-plus pairs of shoes.
Then word of her kind mission got out.
“People in my neighborhood I’ve never even met before were donating money,” says Camden. “GoFundMe donated $2,000.”
In about one month’s time, the 14-year-old wound up raising almost three times her initial goal. The money allowed her to buy 150 pairs of shoes for both the entire first and second grades at Booker Elementary.
“I was so excited last night, I could barely sleep,” says Camden, who hopes to turn Soles Shaping Souls into a non-profit organization and bring the program to even more schools.
The happy buzz of little kids tearing open boxes and trying on their new kicks was infectious.
The effect was immediate.
“I used to be able to jump this high. But with these new shoes, I can jump THIS high!” said one little girl as she hopped up and down wearing her brand new Nikes.