SNOW CAMP, N.C. -- School lessons are usually aimed at the head, but the event at Sylvan Elementary School on Thursday was aimed at the students' feet. About 170 students got a free pair of athletic shoes.
“There’s a huge need for proper footwear…in fact, 87 percent of the world wears footwear that does not fit properly,” said Pat Pande, founder of FootCentric, a continuing education program that aims to address foot problems. Pande, a physical therapist and pedorthist has provide therapeutic services for patients with foot pain for more than 35 years.
Twice a year, FootCentric holds Free Yor Feet events, at which free shoes obtained from donors are distributed. At Free Your Feet events, unlike at some other events in which free shoes are given out, recipients are carefully and individually fitted for their shoes, Pande said.
The event was spearheaded by Brittany Mann, a Medical Administrative Assistant at Piedmont Health, which operates six community health centers in central North Carolina. Through observation and second-hand reports, Mann determined that improper footwear was a concern at Sylvan, which lies in a rural part of Alamance County. At Sylvan, 60 percent of students are eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch, meaning their families live at 185 percent of the poverty level or less.
“I saw a need,” Mann explained, “and I knew that Pat had started a nonprofit organization to provide everybody with shoes so we contacted her and asked her to come out.”
FootCentric partners with the University of North Carolina Physical Therapy Faculty Clinic and the North Carolina Physical Therapy Association on the Free Your Feet events. Shoe donations come from major donors such as New Balance, which supplied many of more than 500 shoes for Thursday's event.
The event was successful with the help of several volunteers, such as Angela Gisselman, a physical therapist from Chapel Hill. Asked what led her to volunteer, Gisselman answered: “Pat’s enthusiasm and the enthusiasm of everyone involved with this project.”
The volunteers found a variety of needs among the students. Madison Shelton’s reasons for needing new footwear was among the most unusual: “I’ve got as new puppy and he tore up my shoes, so I need new ones,” she told a reporter for News 14.
Students were grateful to the volunteers. Asked what he thought of the volunteers, Angel Ramirez responded: “They’re very nice, and kind.”
Brian Toomey, CEO of Piedmont Health, lauded the initiative. “Providing shoes is, of course, not part of Piedmont Health’s typical services, but this does fit in with our mission,” he said. “Our goal is to make sure that all of North Carolina’s residents have access to high-quality health care and preventive care – simply put, we offer the right care at the right cost at the right place. Inadequate footwear can lead to unhealthy feet and other health problems, so we are glad to be a part of this worthy effort.”
Dr. Lillie Cox, Superintendent for Alamance-Burlington Schools, added: “We are so appreciative for our community that is rich in resources generously offered to directly impact children. Partner agencies like Piedmont Health recognize that our entire community benefits when we all join together to help every student be healthy and successful in school.”