Archived Story

Cassopolis junior collects 2,200 pairs of shoes for Haiti

Published 11:43pm Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Niles Daily Star

CASSOPOLIS – When Tommy First began a shoe drive for the people of Haiti in February, he set a goal of collecting 700 pairs of shoes – a reasonable goal for the small community of Cassopolis.

Now the Cassopolis High School junior is staring in awe at a mountain of more than 2,200 pairs he has gathered and stored at Cassopolis United Methodist Church.
“I am definitely surprised,” First said. “The community just took well to this project and were very responsive. It was really inspiring and showed me the possibilities are endless.”

First said he gets three to four phone calls a day from members of the community either complimenting him on his ambition or finding out how to donate shoes or money.

The project began the month after the massive 7.0-magnitude earthquake rocked Haiti.

When his mother Liz had a dream that Tommy was running a shoe collection for the people of Haiti, he took it as a sign.

“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, who hopes to pursue a business degree in college, created his own organization for the project, calling it “Happy Feet For Haiti.” He has done all the advertising for the project and worked with local organizations to set up collection boxes.

Tommy, who plays basketball, baseball and football at Cassopolis High School, has an undeniable passion for sneakers. He had 28 pairs of them – until this project when he donated the first 10. He has since donated a few more that he has grown out of.

“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.”

First also raised more than $1,000 but that will not be enough to pay for the shipping fees to get the shoes to Haiti. He is hoping to send out the first shipment June 19.

To donate shoes or to give money to cover shipping, contact Tommy at (269) 591-5621 or (269) 445-3420.

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