By TESA GLASS
INA — —
Happy faces accompanied the happy feet of student at Ina Grade School Friday as they participated in a Happy Feet Walk-A-Thon.
"This organization helps kids get shoes they need for gym class," said 11-year-old Sophie Laughlin, a member of the Student Council which organized the event. "Before, for our school, whenever someone buys a pair of shoes, or gives money to our school, it goes to only our school to be used for shoes. This helps other kids too."
Superintendent Monte Jo Clark said all students spent an hour walking laps to earn money for the Happy Feet Program, sponsored by Kingdom Seed Ministries.
"How many laps they do is up to them," Clark said. "They went out and got sponsors that either made flat donations or a donation mper lap."
The school set the goal of raising $1,000 for the shoe program.
"This morning, before we even started, there was $986 turned in to the office," Clark said. "That will buy about 250 pair of shoes."
The Student Council at the school teamed up with Happy Feet and Shoe Stop for the service learning project.
"Working as partners with KSM and Shoe STop, the Ina Student Council is dedicated to assisting families in need of support and assistance during back-to-school time next August," information from the school states. "Our service project this year is to support a program called Happy Feet, and help provide high quality gym shoes to at least 500 children throughout Jefferson County for the start of the next school year, totally free of charge."
In addition to raising funds through the Walk-A-Thon, members of the Student Council sold Happy Feet T-shirts and flip flops throughout the month of April, earning enough to purchase 20 pair of shoes.
"With the intent to be visible and active servants in our community, the Student Council believes in getting out from behind the desks and truly making a difference in our community and across our country," the information states. "We will work hard to host this sale and event at Ina Grade School in order to help needy students in our town, our district, the City of Mt. Vernon and throughout Jefferson County."
Student Council Member Ryan Payne said he sees the effects not having quality gym shoes has on the school facilities.
"Some kids don't have any when they play," Payne said. "The gym floor gets marked up bad and needs waxed more often. I play basketball, and it got really bad last year. We had to sweep and take care of the floor before and after every practice. It was just as bad after games. ... Some of the kids in my class take off shoes and play in their socks."
The students were very active in all aspects of the fundraising, from marking lap cards to help set up the events.
"We, the Student Council, helped with the decorations, set up and we went out to get sponsors," added seventh grade student Amber Williams.
According to information from Happy Feet, there are more than 1,000 students in Jefferson County schools who qualify for free lunches based on income levels set by the government.
"This number does not even include District 80 City Schools," information continues. "It is our assumption that these families, and many more like them, could use assistance with back-to-school necessities such as gym shoes.
"As public schools, we can waive book fees, lab fees, lunch fees, etc. for struggling families. But we cannot waive a pair of gym shoes. They are necessary equipment for school. ... Gym shoes are a need upon which we have chosen to focus our efforts, and we feel that the Happy Feet campaign is worthy of our support."
A Back-To-School Bash has been scheduled at Kingdom Seed Ministries on Aug. 10. The gym shoes will be distributed to families who qualify for assistance during the event.
Kingdom Seed Ministries is located at 118 N. Ninth St., Mt. Vernon.