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Samaritan’s Feet partners with CIAA to help children ‘walk into their destiny’

Athletes join in to give kids clean feet, new shoes, socks, backpacks and, most importantly … joy

CHARLOTTE — In the packed gym of Nathaniel Alexander Elementary School, the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) and the global humanitarian organization Samaritan’s Feet worked busily to change children’s lives.

Around the gym you could see stations set up where young students could get their feet washed and be fitted with a new pair of shoes. Many of the people assisting at these stations were CIAA athletes. And for many of them, being able to help these children at Nathaniel Alexander Elementary was an experience they will likely never forget.

“Just to see some of these kids’ faces, a lot of the kids were really excited, and just to know that we were able to bring joy to some of them, you don’t know when was the last time that they … had the ability to get a new pair of shoes,” said Jaylaan Dillard, a Johnson C. Smith University women’s track athlete. “To be able to bring that joy to a kid and to know that I made somebody’s day, it really means everything to me.”

Volunteers from CIAA, Coke and Samaritan’s Feet Shoes of Hope gathered at Nathaniel Alexander Elementary for a community service event during the 2018 CIAA basketball tournament week in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Tyrus Ortega Gaines for The Undefeated

Daryl Napper, a Johnson C. Smith men’s track athlete, agreed with Dillard’s sentiments about the event, saying he looks forward to volunteering with Samaritan’s Feet again.

“It was a very humbling experience, just seeing the reaction in their faces from the time where we clapped for them in walking in to the time when we were washing their feet and providing them new shoes and socks,” said Napper. “It was definitely a humbling experience, and I look forward to continuing to do this.”

Volunteers from CIAA, Coke and Samaritan’s Feet Shoes of Hope gathered at Nathaniel Alexander Elementary for a community service event during the 2018 CIAA basketball tournament week in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Tyrus Ortega Gaines for The Undefeated

Even CIAA commissioner Jacqie McWilliams was able to lend a helping hand. McWilliams conversed with a couple of students from the Title I elementary school while doing her part in washing feet and fitting the children with new shoes. She even managed to take a few pictures with some of the kids.

Samaritan’s Feet is an organization that provides shoes to poor children around the world. In 15 years, they have served more than 7 million people, according to their founder and CEO Manny Ohonme. They have been working with the CIAA for years, and Ohonme says ever since McWilliams took over, their partnership has gone to the next level.

“The CIAA has always stood for being relevant and present in the community, but when Jacqie McWilliams took over we just saw it go to a whole different level,” said Ohonme. “How do we create a platform for student-athletes to serve? Because they are going to be the future CEOs, future doctors, and they are going to be the future leaders … and we can teach them while they are young the importance of what it means to serve others.”

With the CIAA championship games only a day away, there will be two teams each on the men’s and women’s sides that will have hopes of becoming champions on the court.

However, thanks to the CIAA and Samaritan’s Feet, more than 800 elementary school children will have hopes of becoming champions in life.

Chantai Roberts, a volunteer from Coke, adjusts the shoes of a student after fitting him for socks and a pair of new sneakers.

Tyrus Ortega Gaines for The Undefeated

“We provide shoes as a basic foundation in order to help kids dream big dreams,” said Ohonme. “We come in to this school and we provide an atmosphere of hope, of love, and encourage kids to think beyond their wildest dreams and inspire them to dream big dreams. We give them new shoes, give them a new backpack and tell them to go walk into their destiny.”

Donovan Dooley is a Rhoden Fellow and a multimedia journalism major from Tuscaloosa, AL. He attends North Carolina Agricultural & Technical University.