For most children, receiving piles of presents from friends and family is the highlight of their birthday party. But for one special Indiana girl on her ninth birthday, it meant collecting new and gently worn shoes from her friends to donate to Soles4Souls (S4S), the Nashville, TN-based shoe charity. About 50 kids came to Bianca’s “Barefoot Tween Prom” party (complete with a shoe-shaped cake), and they brought more than 350 shoes, according to S4S spokeswoman Patti Graben.
“I had a lot of shoes I couldn’t wear anymore—probably about seven pairs in my closet—and I asked my friends to bring the shoes that they couldn’t wear to the party,” Bianca says. “There are a lot of people who don’t have any shoes, and collecting them made me feel really, really good.” Inspired by the TV show “Oprah’s Big Give,” Bianca decided she wanted to give away her birthday gifts to charity.
But she’s no newbie to charitable acts: Last year, Bianca watched TV footage of a home ravaged by the Midwest floods, and seeing a child’s bookshelf full of wet books inspired her to collect 651 books for children in need. “Bianca personifies the goal of our charity, which is to inspire ordinary people to make an extraordinary difference,” says Wayne Elsey, founder and CEO of S4S. “Our charity depends on people taking ownership of our mission to change the world, one pair at a time.” Bianca is still collecting shoes at her gymnastics center, and she estimates nearly 1,000 pairs have been donated since her birthday. These will also be given to S4S to pass along to children in need, both in the United States and around the world. .