TOMS Club: Service with a lot of sole
Published: Thursday, April 5, 2012
Updated: Thursday, April 5, 2012 01:04
In 2006, Blake Mycoskie changed thousands of lives when he put 10,000 pairs of shoes on the soles of Argentinean children and introduced TOMS to the world.
Southern Miss followed his example in 2010 with the creation of the TOMS Club, which now uses its passion for giving to serve the community of Hattiesburg.
Following Mycoskie’s motto of “One for One”- giving one pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair of TOMS shoes purchased- the Southern Miss TOMS Club strives to help children closer to home who suffer the same misfortune of shoeless feet.
“We just kind of try to give back to our own community in places in Hattiesburg and in the local area that need our help,” president of the TOMS Club and sophomore Kristy Shelley said.
Twice a semester, TOMS Club hosts a shoe drive in which they ask Southern Miss students to dig into the back of their closets and pull out the shoes they don’t need or want anymore and donate them to the TOMS Club. Usually gathering anywhere from 50 to 75 pairs of shoes, the club takes them to the McCarthy Center- an after school center in downtown Hattiesburg for kids from low income families.
“They’re always so thrilled because they always have a need for things like that, because, even locally, people just can’t afford things like shoes,” Shelley said. “It’s really sad, but it’s also awesome to know we can help them out.”
According to Shelley that’s what TOMS shoes is about: just helping those who need it. “And that’s just what we do here,” she said.
“We give money to the TOMS Company, but we also donate through the shoe drive to children in Hattiesburg,” sophomore and Vice President of TOMS Club Tessa Willoughby said. “Not only are you helping the children within your area, in Hattiesburg, but the money you donate to the club goes to the original kids supported by TOMS Club in the One for One movement.”
Although something as simple as shoes may be easy to take for granted, the consequences of not having such a luxury can be shocking. Bare feet- especially in poverty stricken areas- is the leading cause of disease, and can lead to infected cuts and wounds.
Shelley points out that people in the Hattiesburg community are suffering from the same problems of not having a clean pair of shoes. “It’s happening everywhere; it’s not just in third world countries or across the world. It’s in our own community. And I think that people need to know about that.”
“It’s mindboggling to Americans, especially in our modern day,” secretary of TOMS Club and junior graphic design major Josh Byrd said. “Wearing shoes is a necessity here when it’s not even possible in other countries. And that’s kind of what we want to raise awareness about.”
To help raise awareness, TOMS Club is hosting an event on April 10 called “Style Your Sole.” They will have tables set up in Weathersby Lawn from 10:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. for Southern Miss students to bring their shoes to be decorated.
“It’s supposed to be a community thing, so even if you don’t have TOMS to be decorate we still want people to come out and check out our table,” Shelley said. She said there will be art supplies, free cookies and free drinks, and she encourages the campus to support TOMS Club in their cause and to see what they’re all about.
April 10 is also the date for TOMS official “One Day Without Shoes” day‑ a day in which people take off their own shoes to realize what impact something as simple as a pair of shoes can have on the life of a child.
“We will be having a walk around campus, but we’re trying to understand within half an hour how it feels to go everyday without a necessary item like shoes,” Willougby said. “After the 30 minutes we’ll be walking we’ll have the opportunity to wash our feet, and they don’t have that. We as Americans are very far removed from that and have a hard time relating, and so this is an attempt to relate to someone who is so far removed and so far away from our daily life.”
The walk serves as a reminder that millions of children go without shoes which exposes them to disease and infection, and may even prevent them from getting an education. Once people become aware of the hardships of a life without covered soles, they will be more likely to spread the news, take action, and create a change of their own in the world.
Byrd said that the One for One movement initiated by Mycoskie can create change and give without a person even knowing it. “It’s really rewarding when you feel that even though you don’t try to give to other people, you do,” he said.
Students at USM can learn from Mycoskie’s example, as Shelley points out. “A lot of people think ‘I can’t make a difference’ and ‘I can’t help stop all these terrible things that happen in our world,’ but he’s a prime example of someone who did just that,” Shelley said. “He really just saw a pair of shoes and said, how cool would it be to make these and give them to other people- and then it happened. And I’m not saying that things like that happen every day but they can, and that first step is just really getting involved and doing the things that can get you there.”