When Antonio Jones, 7, saw the black-and-white Airwalks at Payless ShoeSource in Aiken on Monday, there were no questions asked – he had found his perfect pair.
“I was so happy to come today,” Jones said. “The good lord told me today to come get these shoes, and I am just so excited.”
Jones participated in the Children's Place annual shoe shopping trip at Payless off Whiskey Road. For four years, Children's Place has been the recipients of 100 free shoe vouchers from Payless in both Aiken and in North Augusta, giving shoes to kids who may not have the chance to always buy a new pair.
Kelly Cheeks, clinical director with Children's Place, said for the past two years she really has enjoyed helping the kids try on shoes.
“So many of our kids don't have a lot of choices of things they get to pick,” Cheeks said. “But this event is all about them and what they like, and what they want, and it's their pair of shoes. It's just a nice way to give back to them and to their families.”
Children's Place offers a wide range of service programs for children with significant development and behavioral problems. The United Way of Aiken County agency works with families to end the abuse and neglect of children, increase stability in families and improve a child's readiness in school. About 160 children and their families receive daily services from the organization each year.
The Payless Gives Shoes 4 Kids program has distributed more than $1 million in new shoes to children in need through Children's Place and other nonprofit partners. Payless launched the program in December 2008, working to identify organizations across the country that can benefit from receiving new shoes.
For Malazsha Bussey, 10, choosing between the sparkly pink, high-top sneakers or the cowboy boots was one tough decision.
“I just don't know which one to choose because I love them both,” Bussey said. “I'm just glad I got to come here today and find new shoes. They are so cool.”
Maayan Schechteris the city beat reporter with Aiken Standard. An Atlanta native, she has a mass communications-journalism degree from the University of North Carolina Asheville. Follow her on Twitter @MaayanSchechter.