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Walking in another man’s shoes (or sneakers)

How many pairs of sneakers do you have in your closet?

If you have any to spare, Ezekiel Stoneham can put them to good use.

He is on track to deliver more than 500 pairs to people who would otherwise go without.

It is all courtesy of a programme he started three Christmases ago — 100 Kickz.

“In a nutshell, it was me and two other friends, Akil Trott and Scott Nearon, who came and sat down trying to think of a way to give back to people on the island in need,” he said.

“We were all very passionate about sneakers; Akil owned a sneaker shop on the island at the time.

“We were looking at our own collections and worked out we had between 60 and 70 each — which is not rare in Bermuda.

“In our minds, we thought that if we got five persons with 20 friends each, that would bring in 100 shoes and we could give them to Family Centre or to children who needed them.”

The trio exceeded their expectations, collecting 270 pairs in December 2016.

“I don't know why we decided to do it. We were just sitting down and thought it would be really cool to give back. Our tagline is ‘young souls donating older soles'.

Older people often think of younger people as entitled, as insensitive; that we do not pull our weight. I'm 29 now, I started this at 26. There is a lot of young people doing good things out there.”

The majority of the sneakers go to Family Centre, for children in its Beyond Rugby programme.

Others are divided between the Coalition for the Protection of Children and the Department of Child and Family Services; with the rest sent to Feed My Lambs, the Bermudian-led Christian organisation in Haiti, and inner cities in the US.

“Obviously they need to be in good condition, to be wearable,” Mr Stoneham said. “This year a lot of people brought heels, flip flops, slippers; they want to just see them out of their closet.

“But if they are going off the island, to Haiti for example, what are they going to do with a heel?

“So this year we are going to give all the women's shoes that were donated to Pals.”

Collection boxes on the island have netted 539 pairs of sneakers, to date. They will be in place until the end of the year.

“Each year it grows more and now finally, we have a great blueprint,” Mr Stoneham said. “The first year we did it with predominantly our friends.

“We had between 35 and 40 donors. Now we are seeing people I would never speak to, people I have never seen.

“It's pretty amazing once you put an idea up in the air how receptive people are.

“I have put the boxes in places I can easily access, or where my friends work, and in January will go with 10 or 15 of my friends and separate them by size, by what needs to stay local. My main thing is to make sure Bermudians are taken care of first.”

He confessed it has made him rethink his own buying habits. “Over the years I have cut down the number of sneakers I have and, as I'm getting older, I look at things that I don't really need.

“Between the ages of 18 and 25, a lot of people are buying sneakers every month. People just collect them; they like to look good. I have friends who easily have between 150 and 200 pairs.”

100 Kickz drop boxes will be at Alchemy Fitness Studio, BeesMont Law Limited, Bulli Social, Island Paints Limited and Southampton Rangers Sports Club until the end of the year

Second life: Ezekiel Stoneham and some of the collected footwear for the needy as part of his100 Kickz programme (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published December 20, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated December 20, 2018 at 7:50 am)

Walking in another man’s shoes (or sneakers)

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