Students at Wake Forest University kicked off their shoes for a good cause on Tuesday.
One Day Without Shoes Co-organizers Molly King and Sarah Kruyer encouraged fellow members of the WFU student body to take a lap around the university’s Hearn Plaza as part of the childhood poverty awareness campaign.
After completing their trek, students signed their names on brightly colored paper footprints and added them to the path that meandered along the quad’s brick sidewalk. Student volunteers also distributed information about One Day Without Shoes, a national event led by TOMS Shoes, and hawked t-shirts and other items to raise funds for the event’s beneficiary, Be Like Brit, which was founded in memory of Britney Gengel, an American college student who was killed in the massive earthquake that devastated Haiti during her 2010 visit.
Just before her death, Gengel sent a text message to her parents, saying she hoped to found an orphanage there someday, and her parents have carried out her dream, through Be Like Brit. The foundation’s origins resonated with King, a native of Boston, Mass.
“I personally knew the people who started Be Like Brit – they come from the Boston area,” related the aspiring
educator. “I knew their story and I just thought it was a wonderful story, especially since Wake students go on so many service trips. I felt they could really connect with that.”
Economics major John Scott was among the students who went barefoot. Scott, a member of the school’s Volunteer Service Corps Advisory Board, said he was happy to lend his support to the cause.
“I’ve seen the advertisements and they talked to the board about coming out and supporting it, and it just seemed like a really great idea,” commented the 19 year-old. “It’s something that doesn’t take a lot of time to do.”
Scott said he felt the event’s simplistic approach would hit home for WFU students.
“I think going to a school like Wake Forest, a nationally recognized institution, a lot of times, we get stuck in what people call the ‘Wake Forest Bubble,’” said the Charlotte native, who led a volunteer service trip to Chicago over spring break this year. “…I think something as simple as taking off your shoes makes you reflect on what’s going on outside these walls. I think people need to be aware of that, and be aware of what’s going on with people in other countries and in other areas of this country.”
Danielle Boyd, the wife of Intervarsity Campus Minister Kevin Boyd, brought the couple’s two children, three year-old Jace and two year-old Zoe, out to support her friends King and Kruyer.
“I wanted to bring my children so they could be a part of something that is benefitting children,” she said. “I’m explaining to Jace that we’re walking for children who can’t afford shoes. I’m trying to instill a thankful spirit in my children as much as I can, so I enjoy being able to take them to events that broaden their knowledge of the world.”
More than 200 students participated in the 2012 event, which benefitted another benevolent cause. By lunchtime on Tuesday, nearly 50 footprints marched merrily along the walk.
King, who has participated in the event every year since her friend, WFU alumna Ashley Millhouse, started it in 2011, said she was hopeful that the participants gained a deeper awareness of the perils of poverty and living without shoes.
“It’s really important to do even the little bit that we are doing,” she remarked. “There’s a plethora of health issues that come from that, and in a lot of countries you cannot go to school if you don’t have shoes, so children who are in poverty who are needing an education the most don’t have access to it.”
The Spanish major added that she hoped this year’s participants would walk away with a greater understanding and appreciation of how fortunate they are to have little luxuries like shoes.
“It just kind of wows you,” she said of walking barefoot on campus. “It makes you feel very grateful for all of the things that you do have, especially going to a school like Wake Forest. We’re very privileged.”
To learn more about One Day Without Shoes, visit http://www.onedaywithoutshoes.com. For more information about Be Like Brit, visit http://belikebrit.org.