AP NEWS

New coalition provides athletic shoes for school kids

March 9, 2019

MONROE, La. (AP) — A new coalition is providing athletic shoes for 40 children at one Louisiana elementary school.

Members learned that children were coming to the office at Barkdull Faulk Elementary School in Monroe, crying because their shoes were too small and hurt their feet, or were falling apart, LSU AgCenter nutrition agent Markaye Russell said in a news release Friday.

Those problems made it hard for the children to participate in physical education classes or run and play at recess, she said. Physical activity lowers the risk of obesity, which is a big problem in Louisiana.

Monroe City School Board member Jennifer Haneline proposed the project in September to the Ouachita Parish Healthy Communities Coalition. Healthy Communities is an AgCenter outreach program to reduce obesity through improving nutrition and increasing physical activity.

Other project supporters include Supplemental Nutrition Assistance programs, Academy Sports and Outdoors, and The Bruscato Law Firm.

Students receiving the shoes were selected by faculty based on economic need. Parents signed a release allowing their children to donate their old shoes in exchange for new ones.

The exchange was an important part of the project because it gets unsafe or worn shoes out of circulation, Monroe attorney John Bruscato said. Organizers said he made the first donation to get the project moving.

“What got me excited about it was — I remember when I was a little kid — the best day ever was the day you got a new pair of shoes,” Bruscato said.

He said he got involved to share that feeling with young people and provide shoes with an appropriate fit for safety and health.

The project will help many families, especially those with multiple children, said Stacie Yerger, curriculum coordinator at the school.

“Shoes are expensive for those families, some with five or six children,” she said.

Bruscato said the group is starting small but thinking big.

“We are just starting out, and I think everybody’s goal is to expand it into other schools and eventually have a regional presence,” he said.