Shoes. They're a basic necessity in school. However, hundreds of students in North Port were recently identified as needing new ones. One woman there has made it her mission to make sure every one of them gets what they need this Christmas.
Atwater elementary teacher Marnie Eckerd sees it first hand everyday. "Kids are coming to school and their shoes are either too big, too small, or with holes in them."
Tough times. The school currently has more than 70% of it's students on free or reduced lunch. A school with uniforms but the shoes stick out. "Kids are kids. It can be a huge blow to a child's self esteem."
Volunteer at the school Sue Lord says the stories touched her. "There was a 4th grade boy that was wearing his mothers shoes. He had taken a marker to try and cover up the pink."
Lord set out to find out how many students in all of the city could use a new pair. "We came up with a number of 665 children that we identified could use a pair of shoes."
Through the North Port Early Bird Kiwanis group they began to raise funds. "We collected a couple hundred pair of shoes and a few hundred dollars. We thought it was nice."
Then a phone call from someone with the King Logie Foundation. A quiet behind the scenes charity organization in the city. "She asked me how much money would it take to put shoes on every child I wanted to help in North port. I am going to get emotional here."
This week volunteers have been handing out $25,000 worth of quality kicks. A pair for every one of those 665 kids. "Schools that I went to and delivered the shoes the staff was just in tears. I mean everywhere I went. They see those kids everyday and they know what this is going to mean."
Eckerd says the change is more then fashion or even just function. "They are not worried all the time. They are more focused on their work instead of what they look like."
A few souls from some kind souls just in time for the holiday season says Lord. "For a lot of kids this is going to be their Christmas present."
Those with the Early Bird Kiwanis say they want to continue to collect the shoes throughout the year. Also collecting socks to go with them.
Volunteers are also working with the Backpack Angels and the North Port Food Coalition to provide food and toiletries for the students.