December 19, 2014

Elyria
Cloudy
29°F
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Eastgate Elementary students surprised with free shoes

ELYRIA — The jubilation broke out somewhere between Principal Chuck Sanfilippo receiving his new shoes, and the 196 students at Eastgate Elementary realizing they too, would be walking out with new shoes, too.

“This is the most excited I have ever seen these kids — ever,” said Sanfilippo, principal at Eastgate Elementary. “This is even after Santa Claus visited them earlier today.” 

Santa Claus had nothing to do with the 196 pairs of brand-new shoes that Eastgate students received on Thursday.

Rather, it was an early Christmas present of sorts from the Boys & Girls Club of Lorain County and its Soul-to-Sole program. 

“This is why I love my job,” said Daniel Smith, area director of the Boys & Girls Club, basking in the deafening roar of 196 boys and girls. “This is why we do what we do.”

Every Eastgate student received a pair of Starbury shoes, the shoe touted by New York Knicks star Stephon Marbury. The shoes were purchased for about $15 each from Steve & Barry’s, a sportswear store known for its low prices on everything from coats to shoes to clothes. 

Lori Campana and Laurie Bove — and their husbands, both named Bob —  started the Soul-to-Sole program in Lorain County in May. The goal of the program, which works in tandem with the Boys & Girls Club, is to provide decent and affordable shoes to children. But Campana and Bove took it to an entirely unexpected level — they raised $40,000 for Soul-to-Sole in just three months.

“We just rolled on from there,” Campana said.

The Boys & Girls Club picked Eastgate Elementary as one of the schools to receive free shoes, while other schools could soon follow. 

Former Harlem Globetrotter Derick Polk, 46, of Aurora — also a Boys & Girls Club leader — kicked off Eastgate’s shoe giveaway with a few basketball tricks that used a handful of teachers and students as court jesters, much to the delight of the students who were corralled in the gymnasium.

The students initially thought Sanfilippo and Kyle Neff, Eastgate’s Boys & Girls Club unit director, were the only ones receiving new shoes Thursday.

“For all the running around that Mr. Kyle and Mr. Sanfilippo do, we want to give them a pair of sneakers,” Smith said.

But Sanfillipo interjected: “I have a question. I do a lot of running around, but these kids do a lot more running around than I do. Do you think we could give all these kids a pair of shoes?”

The deafening screams of 196 kids filled the gymnasium at the very notion.

Had they thought about it more, the students would have remembered that each of them had submitted their shoe sizes to the teachers last week. That meant the shoes were there, and ready to be distributed.

Boys & Girls Club members and Eastgate student Cassandra McCall, 12, surveyed her classmates as they tore open the boxes hiding their new shoes.

“Oh, they’re all very happy,” Cassandra said. “They say it’s the best school day ever.”

Contact Shawn Foucher at 329-7197 or sfoucher@chroniclet.com.