Students bare soles for TOMS mission

Students bare soles for TOMS mission

Susie Skowronek

TOMS Shoes have invaded the fashion world. Ralph Lauren has sold Polo Rugby TOMS, and Element Skateboard has made limited edition TOMS Element shoes and a One for One skateboard.

TOMS made its presence known at Grand Valley State University at 1 p.m. on Friday under the Cook Carillon Clock tower, when the GVSU chapter of TOMS Campus Club invited students to Take the Walk and support an activist movement for HIV/AIDS and poverty in Africa.

The walk led about 20 participants on a one-mile route around the center of campus. Some students participated in bare feet to better understand the needs of children without shoes.

Sophomore Stephanie Sielawa walked the entire loop in bare feet. As the group reached the clock tower at the end of the mile, she said her feet were freezing and numb. On Thursday night, hail showered the campus and a brief dusting of snow touched later in the afternoon. Her toes turned bright red from the cold, but she said she could handle it.

“It’s not that bad,” she said. “I thought it would be a lot worse.”

Sielawa owns two pairs of TOMS shoes, and before she removed them for the walk on Friday, she sported a purple pair. She also owns a pair of plaid-patterned classics.

Originally she investigated the TOMS website and purchased the shoes because she supported the cause. In the TOMS One for One Movement, for every pair of shoes purchased, TOM sends a new pair of shoes to a child who needs them.

The shoes are also in style, she added.

“And as they become more popular, the brand comes out with more styles,” Sielawa said.

When senior Maya Soter and a few friends founded the GVSU chapter of TOMS Campus Club last year, she said they needed to explain the purpose of the student organization. The club does not sell TOMS shoes, rather it works to benefit the non-profit movements associated with the TOMS brand.

“I love shoes, and I thought this was a great way to get involved in something very relatable,” Soter said.

She started the club after viewing the brand’s website,, and was inspired to help people.

According to the TOMS website, American traveler Blake Mycoskie founded TOMS to put shoes on the bare feet of children he met on a trip to Argentina. The company would match a purchase of shoes with a donation pair to a child in need.

Since Mycoskie began the company in 2006, TOMS has given away more than 1 million pairs of shoes.

At the Take the Walk event Friday, students signed their names to a registration form for TOMS shoes, so TOMS donated a dollar for every person who walked to provide new shoes to children.

As a gesture of appreciation from TOMS, participants received coupons toward $5 off TOMS shoes, redeemable at TOMS website or in stores that carry the shoe, such as Clothing Matters at 141 Diamond Street SE in Grand Rapids.

These coupons are also available for attendance at other TOMS events.

“If you can walk, you should walk for TOMS,” said senior Alex Nolan, who participated in the mile and encouraged others to join him. “If you can roll, you should roll for TOMS.”

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