Imagine walking through SRU everyday barefoot or having no way to get shoes. SRU’s TOMS club raised global awareness on the health and education of children on their One Day Without Shoes event Tuesday afternoon.
The TOMS club originated in August 2012 when junior early and special education major and president, Tesin Gnalian, 21, and a friend were inspired to become a part of something that was bigger than themselves.
“In August 2012, my friend Jillian and I were inspired to create a TOMS Club at Slippery Rock University. We wanted to start something where students could become a part of something bigger than themselves,” Gnalian said. “We wanted to support the TOMS movement, but go beyond the shoe.”
The SRU TOMS club became an officially recognized organization at Slippery Rock University in January 2013.
Gnalian explained that the purpose of this event was to give students the idea that they have the power to make a difference.
“It’s all too easy to take things for granted, especially as a college student,” she said. “Sometimes, we just need to take a step back from our classes, extracurricular activities, and social lives to appreciate what we have. Believe it or not, a pair of shoes is a privilege to have.”
Freshman political science major, Meagan Black, 18, reflected on her experience she had with the event.
“There were many activities for people to participate in, such as feet painting and feet tattoos. It started raining in the beginning, which actually helped to enhance the experience,” she said. “One student walked past and said, ‘This is a rough day to be without shoes.'”
Black said that the student’s comment made everyone realize what the whole point of doing the event was.
“It is difficult for us, living such privileged lives, to imagine waking up in the morning and not having shoes to match our outfit, let alone shoes in general.”
Another member of the club, sophomore resort management and tourism major, Kelsey Lehnerd, 20, mentioned how her passion for the One for One movement made her attend the event.
“Every time someone buys a pair of TOMS, TOMS gives a pair of shoes to a child in need,” she said. “I thought that was really awesome. I wanted to learn more, so I’m glad that a club like this came about. It’s a good conversation starter.”
Lehnerd reflected on how the event spoke out to students about the awareness of children without shoes.
“I definitely think this event brought the awareness of children without shoes to light. It’s very uncommon for people in America not to wear shoes, so it was weird to walk around the Quad barefoot, but a good experience,” she explained.
Sophomore physics major, Laura Ordaz, 20, who participated in the event, expressed how she felt it went.
“I think the event turned out well. I was hoping for more interest in the event, but I think the rain scared off a few people,” she said. “We had a station where people could walk on rocks and dirt. This was to help people realize why its extremely important to raise awareness about those who do not have the luxury of wearing shoes on their feet. Towards the end of the event, we went on a march through the Quad. A lot of people had to jump over puddles and dodge pieces of tree limbs so they didn’t come into contact with their feet. I believe this walk put the whole purpose of this event into perspective.”
Ordaz said that Tesin did a fantastic job coordinating the different activities that occurred during the event.
According to the students who participated in the event, not only was it important for them to advocate for less fortunate children, but it was also important to allow other students to see that they too have a voice and they also have the freedom to let it be heard.
Ordaz expressed, “People get so caught up with their new cars and iPhones that sometimes we don’t take a minute to realize what’s happening in the world or take a chance to help improve it.”