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Second-graders go barefoot to send shoes to Africa

By KBell
Feb. 25, 2011 at 8 p.m.
Updated Feb. 24, 2011 at 8:25 p.m.

Students at Faith Academy in Dan Laughhunn's second-grade class do their classwork barefoot on Friday. The children donated their shoes to the Barefoot Sunday project, which is collecting shoes to send to children in Africa.

IF YOU GOWHAT: Barefoot Sunday

WHERE: Renegade Church, 3002 N. Navarro St.

WHEN: 6 - 8 p.m., Sunday

EXPECT: Music and a message from program founder Palmer Chinchen.

FOR MORE INFO: Go to www.barefootsunday.org, or call Jennifer Preyss at 361-580-6535

DROP OFF YOUR SHOES: You can drop off your shoes at the event or in bins at the following locations:

The Victoria Advocate

Parkway Church

John Wesley United Methodist Church

University of Houston-Victoria

Trinity Episcopal Church

Renegade Church

Faith Family Church

Central Church of Christ

St. Joseph High School

Victoria East and West high schools

Jennifer Preyss, who is the local organizer and the faith reporter at the Victoria Advocate, said the original goal of the event was to collect 1,000 pairs of shoes. If they exceed their goal, the extra shoes will be donated to Kidz Connection, a Victoria school district group that helps underprivileged children.

Jayden Dorsett wobbled on one foot as her second-grade teacher, Dan Laughhunn, unclasped her pink slipper before class Friday morning.

When both of the 8-year-old's shoes were successfully removed, Jayden dropped them in a container and walked barefoot back to her classroom at Faith Academy.

One by one, her 16 classmates followed, collectively gathering about 70 pairs of shoes for the Barefoot Sunday project, which will send the shoes to Malawi, Africa.

"It's really fun when we get to do stuff for people," Jayden said, while lugging two bags of shoes.

She explained why she brought several pairs of shoes to give away, including her 4-year-old brother's.

"Some kids, they don't have shoes, and sometimes they need more than one pair because sometimes they grow out of them," she said.

Laughhunn said he read about the project in the Advocate, which is sponsoring the event, and encouraged his students to bring shoes to donate on the day termed Barefoot Friday.

"I told them to bring one pair of shoes. It looks like everyone brought a sack of shoes," Laughhunn said. "They really got into the spirit."

Laughhunn said he explained to the students the purpose of going barefoot - to identify with what kids across the world may go through and to share blessings with others.

"We're not supposed to be self-centered, even as second-graders," he said. "As the day goes on, it will be difficult. That's the point. It is fun to give, but at the same time, it does cost you."

Seven-year-old Gabby Salinas dangled her purple socks from her chair and said that while it was fun to be barefoot for a day, she certainly wouldn't want to live that way.

"Because if you step on rocks, it's going to hurt," she said.

She and other students seemed to grasp the purpose of the project, and Gabby said she felt for the kids who aren't able to have shoes.

"It felt nice, because they don't have a Walmart or anything over there," she said.

Laughhunn said he was so touched by his students' participation and excitement, he hopes to get the whole school on board with the project next year.

"This is my all-time favorite day as a teacher," Laughhunn said. "This is like Christmas in reverse. This is the first time I get to see everyone excited because they're giving to others."

Just then, a student gave Laughhunn a drawing in the teacher's favorite color - blue - that showed kids in Africa receiving the class' shoes.

"This is the most giving class I've ever had," Laughhunn said.

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