This is a great story...here is the article as featured in the Indy Star. For more info, visit www.samaritansfeet.org.
January 25, 2008
IUPUI's Hunter up to his ears in donated shoes
Charity drive to put shoes on feet of African children more than exceeds IUPUI coach's goal
By Curt Cavin
January 25, 2008
IUPUI basketball coach Ron Hunter got his pedicure, his game victory and, as a bonus, more athletic shoes than he'll ever be able to carry to Africa in July. All on bare feet.
Hunter completed one of the most inspirational walks in this college basketball season by coaching Thursday night's game shoeless for children of impoverished homes.
An announced crowd of 1,059 were on hand at IUPUI Gymnasium for the 82-69 victory over Oakland and only a few of them went barefoot, but significantly more nationwide recognized Hunter's effort.
A staggering 110,000 pairs of shoes have so far been donated to Samaritan's Feet, a nonprofit, Christian-based charity that seeks to put shoes on 10 million people throughout the world over a 10-year span. Close to $20,000 in cash was donated. More is expected.
IUPUI announced that the Department of Homeland Security, which offered 10,000 pairs, told Samaritan's Feet to hang loose while officials determine how many more shoes they can donate.
Hunter, who appeared on ESPN's top morning shows Thursday and will be ABC's Person of the Week tonight on "World News Tonight," was humbled by the response. His goal was 40,000 pairs of shoes, a figure symbolic of the 40th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He had that many by lunch.
Soles4Souls, a Nashville, Tenn.-based charity, donated 40,000 pairs. Wal-Mart gave 25,000; Nine West, a women's shoe company, offered another 5,200. During Hunter's appearance on ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike in the Morning" show, a Converse representative joined the program and promised another 15,000.
Most were directly shipped to Charlotte, N.C., where Samaritan's Feet is based. Hunter's office took all it could hold, becoming an impromptu warehouse. An estimated 500 pairs arrived at the gym prior to the game.
At one point in the afternoon, Hunter looked up to find 20 bags of shoes dropped off. They came without a name, just a note that read, "Coach, hope this helps."
"When we started this I thought 40,000 was going to be tough," Hunter said. "When they told me before the game we already had 100,000, honestly, I almost broke down in tears."
At that moment, he cried.
"Imagine if every coach would pick a game to coach barefoot and use their influence," said Emmanuel "Manny" Ohonme, a Nigerian who founded the charity four years ago. "We'd exceed our goals pretty quickly.
"And we're getting e-mails every couple of minutes from people who want more information or to say they just bought a pair," he said. "Plus, there's all these high school coaches around the country who say they want to coach a game barefoot."
For the record, Hunter's exposed feet weren't stepped on during the game. It bears noting that he almost never sits down when the action -- and the feet -- are flowing.
"My feet hurt so bad," he said after the game. "But imagine a child or a human going their whole lives without shoes."
Hunter, 43, said his month-long association with Samaritan's Feet has already affected him, and he knows it could be on the verge of changing the lives of others.
Several of his players have vowed to join him on the summer trip, which he'd like to take to Cameroon, home to Jaguars freshman guard Christian Siakam. In Siakam's family, shoes are a luxury; not everyone has them.
Now, a man with no ties to IUPUI has offered to charter a jet to fly the team to Africa, pending NCAA approval, of course.
"I knew when I saw Siakam's face we were doing the right thing," Hunter said.