BY MAKENNA ALLEN
It is springtime in Hays and for many FHSU Tigers, that means one thing…. spring cleaning. While cleaning out the closet might not appeal to many when taken at face value, the activity can provide a meaningful way to become connected in the Tiger community. Simultaneously, it can allow Tigers to impact individuals around the world.
In fact, a single pair of old shoes taking up space in the closet can serve a greater purpose through the Tiger Soles event put on by the Tiger Wellness Center. From now until the end of the semester, the Wellness Center will be accepting shoes regardless of their condition. All types of soles, ranging from tennis shoes to high heels, are welcome. As an added bonus, students who donate two pairs will receive a free t-shirt. Those who donate four pairs will receive two t-shirts.
All collections will be repurposed through the Nashville-based, non-profit, Soles4Souls. The organization works to gather donations of used shoes from various groups before distributing them across the country and even the world to be utilized in a variety of settings.
Tiger Wellness Center Director, Drew Gannon, organized the first annual Tiger Soles event to collect donations for the organization after learning of a group in Omaha that collected shoes for the homeless. Ultimately, Gannon hoped to apply this concept to students on campus.
According to Gannon, the event provides an opportunity for students to have a positive impact on the environment as well as individuals in the community.
Through the Soles4Souls program, shoes donated in poor condition will be passed along to another group that grinds shoes to turn them into rubber floors, cushions for field turfs, rubber mats, and other similar products. Meanwhile, shoes that meet a middle standard will be shipped to homeless shelters as well as third-world countries.
The use of shoes in good condition, however, provides an opportunity to connect students around the world. Indeed, these shoes will be sent to trade schools in Haiti and Honduras. There, they will be given to orphans who are leaving the orphanage and attending trade school. The shoes will be utilized to teach students to sell shoes so that they might one day run a business and make a living for themselves.
Ultimately, Gannon suggests that this is a cause with which stakeholders in the educational community of FHSU can connect.
“When we look on the far spectrum of it, we all, on this campus, are either teaching as faculty and staff. Or as a student, you are learning something to better your own life long-term,” Gannon said. “That’s what this all comes down to is on the long-term side of it, these people are trying to learn a trade to make a living.”
Even more broadly, the Tiger Soles event is about developing the ability to serve others on a community-wide and global basis.
“It’s just doing good. It’s looking beyond ourselves and it’s trying to make an impact and do good with something that can easily be thrown away,” Gannon said. “We probably throw our shoes away for the most part. It’s trying to look beyond ourselves and make an impact on the world around us.”
As the Tiger Wellness Center looks to increase that impact through the end of the semester, it has also participated in a variety of other drives and community events that attempt to reach this same goal.
During the spring of 2019, the Wellness Center collected donations for those struggling during the flooding in Nebraska. The donations gathered during the Nebraska Flood drive were enough to fill a large U-Haul with supplies that the group sent to the state.
Similarly, the Wellness Center collected necessities for individuals who experienced shortages during the recent crisis in Texas.
Additionally, the Wellness Center has partnered with FHSU Student Health on campaigns such as Delete Blood Cancer. Meanwhile, Gannon organized a mini-blood drive initiative among his staff members.
The ultimate goal of the Wellness Center in its activities is to engage FHSU students by allowing them to participate in bettering the community and the world as a whole. Gannon suggests that such events provide college students the opportunity to step up for an important cause.
“College students can give and they do such a good job of giving and I think that they just don’t get credit for it,” Gannon said.
As students rise to the call of the Tiger Soles event, Gannon believes it is an important time for Tigers to recognize the importance of serving their neighbors.
“We’re trying to look at how we can serve the community around us and how we can serve our neighbors,” Gannon said. “Sometimes our neighbors are in Nebraska. Sometimes our neighbors are in Texas. Sometimes our neighbors are somebody that is going through blood cancer and need somebody to help them out. Or sometimes our neighbors are somebody that lives in Haiti or Honduras and are trying to learn a trade and get an education and learning a trade to sell shoes.”
In order to better reach these neighbors, the Tiger community can visit the Wellness Center with a pair of old shoes. Donations will be accepted through the end of the semester, so don’t forget to get to spring cleaning.