As many of us with kids in youth sports know, purchasing new gear, specifically athletic shoes, is expensive, and if your kids are in multiple sports, it can be overwhelming. Add to that the growth spurts of elementary-aged kids, and you end up with piles of expensive, barely worn shoes all over the house. Whether boxing them up in the basement for that someday hand-me-down or dropping them off at the nearby thrift store, for many of us, figuring out what to do with all the shoes can be a constant and frustrating chore.
Draper residents DJ and Danielle George know this frustration all too well with four kids involved in youth sports, but also know there are many less fortunate kids in our community who don’t have access to an extra pair of shoes. So, in 2012, with the help of their children, the couple established the nonprofit, Cleats for Feet, a foundation that collects and donates used and new basketball/gym shoes and baseball/soccer/football cleats to youth recreation program participants in economically disadvantaged areas of Salt Lake City.
“With four kids in sports we have a lot of shoes everywhere — I was frustrated,” Danielle George said. “People donated to DJ when he was growing up, allowing him to stay in sports, which kept him out of trouble. We knew there was a need.”
The Georges have initiated shoe drives through their school and sports programs, set up a website, and have watched in amazement at the number of shoes coming in. To date, CFF has collected and donated over 1,000 pairs of athletic shoes within the Salt Lake area.
“We take any kind of athletic shoe and patch them up if needed,” Danielle George said. “Our kids help out by scrubbing, re-lacing and packaging the shoes with a brand new pair of socks — we’re all involved. We’re very passionate about it.”
Fifth graders at St. John the Baptist Elementary are hosting a CFF shoe drive for the second year in a row as part of a year-long service project, and have collected over 500 pairs of shoes to date for the foundation.
“We send tubs home with parents so the kids can clean the shoes and prepare them,” George said. “The kids really own the project because they can relate to it. They know what it means to have a new pair of shoes.”
CFF currently donates to four recreation centers and/or youth sports programs that make the shoes available through their program orientations and youth coaches.
“Cleats for Feet has been working with our center for a couple of years now, and we are so grateful,” said Will Kocher, Northwest Recreation Center facility manager. “I’ve seen some kids come in with shoddy shoes, heels coming off — the only pair of shoes they have. To get a pair of good athletic shoes gives kids a sense of pride—they feel good about themselves and want to participate. It’s been great for members in our community who are struggling.”
CFF will be accepting monetary donations on March 26 through www.loveUTgiveUT.org
as part of the 24-hour Day of Giving.