By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
DeWitt — Earlier this summer, four teenage siblings were shocked when they learned how many youths in DeWitt wouldn’t have access to supportive, well-fitting athletic shoes for gym class come fall.
“It was a pretty big surprise,” said Ethan Blandin, a junior at Central DeWitt High School. “We didn’t know that many kids around town needed shoes. Their parents can’t afford them or they just wear run-down shoes that don’t fit.”
The Blandins are members of St. Joseph Parish in DeWitt and all have either graduated from or are currently attending St. Joseph Catholic School. Eldest sibling Madeleine was working at a local bank when she heard from a teacher friend about the need for donated, new athletic shoes for students in the Central DeWitt Community School District.
She got her younger siblings Ethan, Isaac and Elizabeth involved and together they started a community shoe drive: Kicks for Kids-DeWitt. Together with their mother, Corrin, they spoke with school district representatives to gauge how many shoes they might need to collect in order to satisfy the need.
They set up donation boxes at First Central State Bank, DeWitt Bank and Trust, Frances Banta Waggoner Community Library and the Clinton County Fairgrounds. A social media page helped to spread the message.
“We had an amazing response,” said Elizabeth, who just started eighth grade at St. Joe’s. “A lot of people donated … so many people shared our Facebook page. One post got 2,000 views.”
Between the donated shoes and monetary donations received, the siblings were able to deliver 83 pairs of shoes to the schools. An additional $150 in reserve will be used to supplement need during the school year. The Referral Center in DeWitt can also request shoes for students when a need is observed. In late August, the Referral Center contacted the Blandins to request adult-sized shoes for an older student. The Blandins used the reserve money to fill the student’s need.
Corrin said it makes her proud as a parent to see her children willing to help the community.
Sharon Roling, St. Joe’s principal, is likewise encouraged by the students stepping up to fill a need. “As a school community, we work to impress upon our students that faith and charity are more than just confirmation requirements. As Catholics, we are called to be of service regardless of our age or position in life. It is inspiring to know that these youth understand the importance of living out the corporal works of mercy in their busy lives. I hope that others will follow their example.”