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Shoes for Africa drive starts Monday
Blake Willeford of Langley is a runner and, as such, he has a really big supply of running shoes.
And the pile in his closet just keeps getting bigger.
“I was on a long run one day, thinking about getting a new pair of shoes because after several hundred miles, they’re still good but tend to lose their cushioning effect,” he recalled. “I started looking for a way to put those older, gently used but still wearable shoes to good use. I have quite a few rattling around at home.”
Willeford did some research and found an organization called Shoes for Africa, which takes athletic shoes and sandals in good shape and gets them in the hands, and then on the feet, of people in need.
Willeford discovered there is a problem with the spread of parasitic infections among the people in the African country of Senegal. The infections cause illnesses that prevent adults from working and children from attending school.
Footwear in Africa is enormously important as a way to reduce trauma, hookworm and parasites that enter the bare foot. Infections related to feet also cause problems for those suffering from diabetes and a particular cancer called Kaposi’s sarcoma. The latter has been linked to the AIDS virus, but it existed in Africa long before that particular virus struck.
So Willeford got together with training buddy Kelly Henriot, who is also the president of Langley Middle School’s PTA.
“Blake called to see if I wanted to help out, so together we have organized collection bins starting on Monday, Jan. 25 at South End schools, the Island Athletic Club in Freeland and the Clyde Theatre,” she said.
The older shoes and sandals — new ones are graciously accepted — will be gathered and shipped overseas for distribution by Shoes for Africa.
Willeford and Henriot are requesting that shoe laces be tied or the shoes held together with a big rubber band, with a dollar bill slipped into the toe to help cover shipping costs. The program runs for two weeks until Feb. 5.
“I suspect there will be a mountain of shoes,” Willeford said. “The Clyde will pay for shipping to a collection point in Georgia, then Shoes for Africa will get them to Senegal and other African countries.”
For more information, call Henriot at 321-5712 or visit www.yesshoesinc.org.