UT student athletes began collecting gently-used shoes on Monday in advance of an upcoming service trip to Nicaragua, where they will deliver, size and fit shoes to people in need.
The shoe drive, held on Speedway, is the result of a recent partnership between Texas Athletics and Soles4Souls, a nonprofit relief and sustainability organization. Following the conclusion of the shoe drive on May 6, four student athletes will travel to Nicaragua in late May.
UT soccer player Natalie Weidenbach is one of the four selected for the service trip. Weidenbach said she admires the project because it focuses on helping people establish small businesses as well. Soles4Souls provides a supply of shoes to some people in the countries they serve, who can then build their own small business selling the shoes for profit.
“(Soles4Souls) enables micro-enterprise, and so it has a long-lasting effect,” said Weidenbach, an international relations and global studies freshman. “Some humanitarian relief organizations take care of the immediate impact, but after they leave, those effects are gone. So I love that in our absence it just continues to blossom.”
Undeclared sophomore Patrick Hudson, a member of the UT football team, will also be attending the service trip. Hudson said the program stands apart from many study abroad programs because it enables student athletes to make an impact through service.
“Most kids go on study abroad trips, but with this trip to Nicaragua … we’re going to change somebody’s life,” Hudson said. “We’re going to change the next step they take.”
Celesia Smith, who is in cross country and track, said many other student athletes have been engaged with the shoe drive, including those within her own sport.
“I think especially in cross country and track, my sport, we have a lot of shoes (to donate),” said Smith, a business honors and Plan II freshman. “We’ve tried to get a big array of support for the cause because the fact that one (pair of shoes) can make such a big difference is amazing.”
The partnership has given the student athlete community the opportunity to work together for an important cause, Smith said.
“Texas Athletics is really a big family,” Smith said. “I think when we band together and connect with the rest of campus to (collect) shoes and make a difference, there’s a big impact.”