Tommy First, a junior at Cassopolis High School, is collecting new and gently used shoes to send to the people of Haiti. The drive began three weeks ago and he has collected more than 260 pairs so far. (Vigilant photo/AARON MUELLER)
Tommy First, a junior at Cassopolis High School, is collecting new and gently used shoes to send to the people of Haiti. The drive began three weeks ago and he has collected more than 260 pairs so far. (Vigilant photo/AARON MUELLER)

Archived Story

Junior wants ‘Happy Feet for Haiti’

Published 1:16pm Thursday, March 11, 2010

By AARON MUELLER
Cassopolis Vigilant

Tommy First has made his mom’s dream come true – literally.

Last month Liz First had a dream that her son was running a shoe collection for the people of Haiti.

Three weeks and more than 260 pairs of shoes later, Tommy First has made that dream a reality.

The 17-year-old junior at Cassopolis High School said when he heard his mother’s dream, he knew he had to take action.

“I said yeah, it would be a great idea, just awesome,” Tommy said. “I took her up on the idea, and it’s become very successful.”

The night before Liz’s dream, she and Tommy had been looking at photos of the Haitian people amidst the aftermath of the earthquake.

“We said ‘look at these people. They’re not even wearing shoes.’ And I said ‘All these shoes you have and these people don’t have any,’” Liz said.

Tommy is a center on the Cassopolis basketball team and has a definite love affair with sneakers. He had 28 pairs of them – until this project.

He donated the first 10.

Now Tommy has collected nearly 300 pairs of shoes, averaging 100 pairs donated per week. His goal is to donate 700 to the cause.

“We take for granted so much stuff that they don’t have,” Tommy said. “It’s sad to see them walking around like this and see us throwing away stuff.”

Tommy, who has a keen interest in business, created his own organization, Happy Feet for Haiti, that will give the shoes to Rays of Hope for Haiti, a shipping agency out of Grand Rapids to get them into the right hands – or feet.

He also designed flyers and worked with area businesses to set up collection boxes.

“I pretty much knew how to make my own business plan,” Tommy said. “I’m really into business. That’s what I want to go to college for. So I just started going to work on it.”
Tommy, who is an active member of Cassopolis United Methodist Church, said he saw a need and wanted to do all he could to help.

“My mom does a guy’s hair, who is a missionary doctor, and he said the most treated injury there is foot injuries. That’s another reason I started this,” he said.

The first shipment is going out in the first week of May, but Tommy plans to continue to collect shoes after that.

If the community continues to donate at the rate is has, the impact could go even beyond his mother’s wildest dreams.

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