GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan – Don Carlson and Galen Duncan have been close since college, playing basketball together at Lake Superior State University.
“After one of his MBA travel basketball games, we sat down and we were like, ‘Hey what can we do to impact kids and we both have an affinity for shoes, basketball and sports in general, ”said Carlson.
“It must be the shoes”
Together, the two launched “It’s Gotta Be The Shoes,” a new local non-profit organization specializing in purchasing new basketball shoes for the feet of children in need.
“Growing up we both shaped our outfits after our shoes and a lot of our self-esteem was about wearing shoes and having nice shoes,” Duncan added. “We want to give back a little of that. “
Carlson and Duncan also add that something as simple as new shoes can help children not only in athletics, but also in academics, as well as high self-esteem.
This afternoon, eight girls from the Pual I. Phillips Boys and Girls Club in Grand Rapids sat on the bench of the 2022 MBA Travel Basketball team during a game.
“I love basketball, it’s my favorite sport and when I grow up I want to be like them,” said Amicka Swanigan, 10.
After the game, these eight girls joined the basketball team upstairs at MSA Fieldhouse for lunch and were also given shirts and their new pair of shoes.
“I don’t have a lot of shoes at home and I usually play with my shoes and they spoil sometimes,” added Briyanna Dancler, an 11-year-old basketball player.
Their club manager, Derrick Owens Sr., said the day couldn’t have been better.
“Priceless – one word, priceless, it was like Christmas morning, like receiving the gift you always wanted,” he said with a smile.
Each girl partnered up with one of the basketball players and wrote a thank you card, teaching an important life lesson of gratitude.
“At the Boys and Girls Club, we have a lot of character and that just makes it stronger,” Owens added. “When someone gives you something, you say thank you, you say it from the bottom of your heart and with compassion.”
It’s a day the girls and the basketball team will never forget because of the new friendships that were formed and, of course, those new shoes.
“I have the Space Jam shoes and can’t wait to show them off,” Swanigan said with a laugh.
And Dancler couldn’t contain his smile either.
“I’m really grateful because I have to be here today,” she added.
“It’s Gotta Be The Shoes” is based on donations and mostly Carlson and Duncan’s own pocket. If you want to know more or help the organization, Click here.