Taking on the TOMS vision

April 15, 2013 | 11 a.m.

Bethel students participate in TOMS events to raise awareness and bring relief for those without shoes

Culture | Greta Sowles

Taking on the TOMS vision

TOMS shoes have become famous for their "One for One" policy, donating a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair purchased. | Photo for The Clarion courtesy of JMOGLE/foter.com

In its first year of business, TOMS sold 10,000 shoes. Since then, the organization has given over 2 million shoes to kids in over 50 countries. What started as an idea became a movement, and it has touched the Bethel campus.

On April 16, the Bethel community can join in “One Day Without Shoes.” The day encourages people to intentionally go barefoot in order to bring awareness to the global health issues associated with the lack of shoes.

The Bethel event has been going on for the past three years and has been coupled with the sale of the popular TOMS shoes at a discounted price. This year, the shoes were purchased online through a Bethel link for $35 instead of the $44 retail price. In this event last year, around 160 Bethel students purchased discounted TOMS, and many participated in going barefoot. Shoes are only required in the Dining Center and near the 3900 Grill.

Juniors Hillary Henke and Kristine Schmidt are in charge of this year’s TOMS event.

“By going without shoes we get to experience what they go through,” Henke said.

“Shoes are a no-brainer to us. To so many people in the world, shoes are luxury items,” added Schmidt.

In addition to participating in “One Day Without Shoes,” Bethel students who purchased a pair of TOMS can decorate their shoes. “Style Your Sole” is an event that will be held in The Loft from 8-10 p.m. on April 16. Glitter, paint, buttons and sewing materials will be provided.

According to toms.com, a pair of shoes can prevent a child from getting infections and diseases, and it can complete a school uniform, which is often necessary for education in many countries.

TOMS works with over 75 Shoe Giving Partners, who integrate shoe giving into other work, including health check-ups, distribution of vaccinations and school support. When a pair of shoes is purchased through the TOMS organization, a pair of specially designed black canvas shoes is given to a child in need. Shoe distributions are often paired with education on hygiene and other healthy habits.

Founder Blake Mycoskie started the organization after taking a life-changing trip to Argentina in 2007. “I was so overwhelmed by the spirit of the South American people, especially those who had so little,” Mycoskie said. “And I was instantly struck with the desire — the responsibility — to do more.”

The shoes come in over 10 styles, including canvas classics, cordones, stitchouts, wedges and wrap boots. The prices range from $44 to $140, depending on the style.

“It’s selfless, and I think that’s what TOMS strives to do,” said Schmidt. “It is so small to us, but it is huge to other people.”

In addition to shoes, TOMS sells eyewear, and the organization collaborates with eye care professionals who can help people in need obtain prescription glasses, medical treatment and eye surgery.

According to the TOMS website, 285 million people around the world are blind or visually impaired, and 80 percent of these cases are treatable or curable. TOMS currently helps restore sight in 12 different developing countries as well as in the United States. The glasses range in cost from $88 to $169 and include polarized or regular sunglasses.

Like “One Day Without Shoes,” “World Sight Day” on October 10 is a day that raises awareness of blindness and visual impairments around the world.

To learn more about the TOMS organization, visit www.toms.com.

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