Merced kids get new 'kicks' from Happy Feet Foundation

12/13/2013 8:45 PM

12/13/2013 11:46 PM

The Alicia Reyes Elementary School cafeteria Friday looked something like the organized chaos that happens in many households on Christmas morning.

“Ah, I got Airwalks,” said Saul Lizarraga, 10, as he unwrapped his new pair of shoes and socks with a smile.

The fifth-grader was one of about 70 kindergarten through fifth-grade students who received a fresh pair of “kicks” this week from Happy Feet Foundation, a Merced nonprofit group.

President Brynn Wolcott said her nonprofit gathers donations from churches, organizations and individuals to pay for the shoes and socks. She started the nonprofit in 2011, and this week’s giveaway was the second of its kind.

“The purpose is to give children confidence so they feel good about themselves,” she said, adding that it’s important to outfit the youngsters with new, rather than used, footwear.

Wolcott said her organization aimed to pick shoes that were about 1/2-size too big, so they would last a little longer on the children’s growing feet.

Lil Ayala, the school’s learning director, said the staff measured the children’s feet before heading to the store. Some children were wearing shoes that were worn out or three sizes too big, while others wear sandals through the winter because that’s all the family can afford.

Ayala said the new shoes can fill an important need. “For some, it’s a big deal,” she said.

Wolcott said she recently received a $5,000 contribution from Pacific Gas & Electric Co. She said that as a result, next year’s giveaway should double or triple the number of youngsters with fresh footwear.

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