MYRTLE CREEK — More than 100 barefoot students milled around the Coffenberry Middle School football field Thursday evening to experience life without shoes.
Sixth-grader Dallin Fee led the group in the popular dance called the Harlem Shake for a commemorative video.
The kids plan to send the video to Toms, a Southern California-based company that gives a pair of shoes to an underprivileged child when a pair is bought for the normal price. The students were preparing for One Day Without Shoes, a program sponsored by Toms to teach kids about the importance of shoes worldwide.
Dallin, 12, said the program helps participants learn about the daily challenges of kids who lack footwear.
“We’re trying to see what they feel like,” he said.
The dance was organized by special education teacher Erin Weber. She said she learned about the program last fall, when she went to a Portland conference and saw information about it at a Toms booth.
She was intrigued by the concept and wanted to bring the event to Myrtle Creek. The company sent her a “tool kit” of stencils, stickers and coupons.
At Thursday’s celebration, Coffenberry students decorated T-shirts and participated in a fashion show with the shoes. Sixth-grader Alyssa Rainville, 12, sparkled in the fashion show with her shiny black Toms. She said she owned the shoes before the event and was excited to wear them for the show.
“I didn’t realize how many kids go without shoes. There are a bunch of diseases you can get when you don’t wear shoes,” she said.
The kids strolled across a “walk through experience” — a bed of rocks, sand and gravel — to see what it would be like to live without shoes.
Tuesday marks a national One Day Without Shoes observance, and students in participating schools will be permitted to go unshod in their classrooms, Weber said.
Weber said she has supported Toms for many years, in part because she appreciates the company’s humanitarian efforts.
“I look at it as I’m buying two pairs of shoes,” she said.
The company donates the second pair to children in the U.S. as well as those in other countries.
“We just want to let people know that there are kids without shoes,” Weber said.
Many students Thursday donated a pair of gently worn shoes that will be taken to local charities.
Seventh-grader Connor Yates, 13, said he learned some important lessons throughout the week.
“There are a lot of kids in other countries and in our country that don’t have shoes. We’re pretty lucky to be able to have shoes because they don’t,” he said.
• You can reach reporter Betsy Swanback at 541-957-4208 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.