Sky Deliver Happy Feet

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The Chicago Sky and its foundation, Sky Cares, teamed up with Samaritan’s Feet and the Sky Legacy Partners to deliver one thousand new pairs of shoes to underprivileged children, Friday, in Chicago’s Austin community at La Folette Park.

Sky players, coach and staff as well as 30-plus volunteers were on hand to greet ecstatic young children who not only received a new pair of kicks, but were recipients of a soothing foot wash and rub in a touching display of service. The intention of this “Shoes of Hope” event was to send a life changing message of hope and respect for all involved.

“We do a lot of stuff out here, but we haven’t done anything like this,” said Chicago guard Courtney Vandersloot. “The kids really enjoyed it and it was a good experience.”

Vandersloot and her teammates spent several hours chatting with and getting to know youth of all ages. The second-year point guard estimates she washed the feet of some 40 children between the ages of 9 and 15, talking about their friends, school and the latest titles in video games.

The children were pre-identified and selected to participate in the event by Building a Healthier Austin.

“Many of these families are deciding whether to provide food for their children or clothing,” said Todd Melloh, who oversees the Indianapolis branch of Samaritan’s Feet. “So we want try to make those choices easier for them to make.”

Samaritan’s Feet, a humanitarian aid outfit established in 2003, hopes to place new shoes on the feet of 10 million children worldwide. Thus far, it has aided 4 million youth in more than 62 countries.

Yet the organization estimates there are some 300 million children across the globe that go without shoes each day. Melloh believes the need to cover shoeless feet remains underrepresented.

“Shoes were never a hot topic for anybody. No one thought, 'Oh my gosh, people need shoes,’” he said. “But we brought the awareness here... and people have caught on, which is great. We don't care who gets the credit; we just want someone to provide something so basic that we all take for granted.”

Friday’s project marked the third such event that Samaritan’s Feet has sponsored in Chicago. Melloh hopes to continue working with the Sky and other organizations to create a lasting relationship with the Windy City. He stated rather fittingly, “We want to grow our footprint in Chicago.”

Melloh appreciated the hard work put in by the players, volunteers and staff from the Chicago Park District, but he suspects that everyone in attendance received more than they gave Friday afternoon.

“It's about engaging people in a life of service and teaching them how to serve others,” he said. “It's about sitting across from them, sharing something very intimate through washing their feet and meeting a basic need for them.”