Shoeless students sprawled on the lawn, played pick-up soccer, took pictures together and mingled in the sunshine at Bosco Plaza during the Tuesday-afternoon event for TOMS, “One Day Without Shoes.”
“One Day Without Shoes” is an annual nationwide event to raise awareness for the mission of TOMS, a shoe company that provides a pair of shoes to African and South American children in need. For each pair of shoes bought through TOMS, a pair is sent overseas – “one for one,” as stated on toms.com.
Several students said they enjoyed the warm, breezy weather, but even with the high of 70 degrees, the turnout was only 50, compared with 200 participants last year. Kate Hambleton, senior in theatre and campus TOMS representative, cited less representatives, poor delegation and increased busyness of promoters as reasons for the drop in attendance.
“Even though it wasn’t as much as last year, it was still so great to see strangers or people come out by themselves just to do it because they love TOMS – that’s always really a cool thing to see,” Hambleton said.
Ashley Eisenbarth, junior in biology and campus TOMS representative, said she found it amazing that students who did not even know the purpose of TOMS were willing to take the walk.
When asked why students who were not familiar with the cause would participate in the event, Eisenbarth responded, “I think they know a good cause when they hear one, even if they don’t completely understand what it is; they go to meet new people and learn more about it.”
Hambleton said that beside herself and Eisenbarth, the primary promoters of the event were members of Phi Beta Sigma, a service-oriented fraternity. Hambleton said she was especially thankful for the assistance of James Rico, senior in mass communications and psychology and Phi Beta Sigma historian, because he used his photography skills and social connections to get the word out.
Christopher Cunningham, sophomore in business administration and Bigger and Better Business Chair of Phi Beta Sigma, said the fraternity has a passion for TOMS and enjoys giving support to local causes, so “One Day Without Shoes” was a perfect fit.
“My favorite part was how many people were really willing to take off their shoes,” Cunningham said. “Some people just take off their shoes and keep on their socks; that’s what I did at first, but everybody got on me, so I just took my socks off too.”
In addition to the increased participation of Phi Beta Sigma and the decreased promotion from campus TOMS representatives, another difference this year was construction at the corner of 13th Street and Fremont Street, which caused participants to forego the sidewalk and make a barefoot trek across City Park.
“You’d think the sidewalk would be bad, since it’s kind of uneven, but these twigs are actually the worst – oh, a sticker just got me,” said Allie Hays, senior in psychology, as she gingerly stepped through the grass.
One part of the event that was congruent with its past two years at K-State was the post-walk reception under the pavilion at City Park, Hambleton and Eisenbarth provided the participants with water and popsicles.
Hambleton said she wanted to encourage all K-State students to visit toms.com.
“Just go and try and learn more, and get as involved as you can,” Hambleton said.