LIGONIER — Be warned, residents of Noble County. Your used shoes could be disappearing over the next two weeks, but it’s all for a good cause.
More than 5,000 students at local high schools and middle schools are taking part in a campaign to collected used and unwanted shoes, along with financial donations, as part of a local effort by an international organization known as Think Kindness.
Founded in Reno, Nev., by Brian Williams, Think Kindness aims to collect thousands of pairs of shoes — and the funds needed to ship them — for children in Africa and other places around the world.
Tuesday afternoon at West Noble High School, Williams launched an effort to have students at that school bring in at least 1,000 pair of unwanted shoes, plus at least $250 for shipping costs.
The effort is being turned into a challenge between most of the high school and middle school students at all three school corporations in Noble County. Williams visited five schools this week to spread the word about Think Kindness, an organization he started that already has delivered tens of thousands of shoes to children in Africa.
Williams did a great job of getting West Noble students fired up about the idea of collecting shoes and money, noted Nate Lowe, the school’s principal.
Williams told the entire student body that the goal of Think Kindness is “to instill hope that the world can be made a better place.” He said much negativity is broadcast through the media each day, but young people have “the power and the capability” to stem that tide.
“Don’t settle for mediocrity. Learn that you can put more good news out there in the world,” Williams said.
Williams peppered his talk with humorous anecdotes to help get his message across. But after he played an extended audio tape of Grace, a young girl from Africa who has AIDS, the mood turned serious and more than a few students could be seen wiping tears from their eyes.
Lowe is working with officers of all four classes at his school to arrange a reward if they meet the goal of collecting all those shoes, plus some funds, in the next 15 days.
Students who bring in shoes or money will be eligible for an ice cream party at the school with games, fun and music, Lowe said.
Other schools in Noble County are arranging rewards for students if they meet their goals.
Friday, West Noble High School students will be allowed to walk the hallways of their school in bare feet, stockings or slippers, as a way of reminding others of how millions of children around the world do not have shoes to wear to school.