As part of the Bluefield College mission to be a caring campus community in service to God and others, BC students participate often in mission and ministry projects, but none with more customization and style than the TOMS Shoes ministry called “Style Your Sole.”
TOMS Shoes launched its ministry in 2006 when American traveler Blake Mycoskie befriended children in Argentina and discovered they had no shoes to protect their feet. Wanting to help, he created TOMS Shoes as a company that would match every pair of shoes purchased with a pair of new shoes given to a child in need. By the end of that year, the “One for One” program had provided news shoes to 10,000 needy children. Today, the company has given away more than one million pairs of shoes.
Determined to add to that number, Bluefield College students responded en masse to the “Style Your Sole” event on campus. With genuine hearts and unique design plans, they quickly filled the Student Activity Center on campus with paint, fabric, glitter, chatter, and music. They each started with a blank white pair of canvas shoes, but finished with a unique self-expression.
“It’s so awesome to be able to express myself,” said student Brittany Walters, who bought her very first pair of TOMS Shoes specifically for the BC event, “and at the same time be able to help somebody.”
Scripture seemed to be one of the more popular themes for the shoes. Jeremy Bartlett was all about the love as he created a I Corinthians 13 pair of TOMS for his fiancé, Jackie Boyer, who could not attend. Classmate Erin Darnell chose a similar theme.
“I wanted to buy a pair for a long time,” said Darnell, a Teacher Education major whose inspiration came from the scripture “to love the least of these” and from the secondary school students she befriended during student teaching this semester. “I see my students and their need for shoes right here in the community, and I love the thought of doing this for my students and kids just like them around the world.”
David Somerville focused on Jeremiah 29:11. “It means a lot to be able to give back,” Somerville said passionately, “because so many people have given to me, and it made a world of difference in my life. So, if I have the chance to give back some of God’s love, then it is worth it.”
Amanda Heller, who said TOMS is her favorite charitable organization, styled her sole with bright positive colors. She said, “Being able to provide for kids around the world is the coolest feeling. I love it! I hope I am able to help take away some the pain of diseases or cuts by giving them shoes.”
As Summer Eggers created a pair of pink and purple TOMS, she shared her thoughts on the impact the BC “Style Your Sole” project will have on children’s lives, as well as the opportunity the event provided for the campus to unite for a common good.
“I am so happy to see the campus involved in this event,” Eggers said.
Some students hired “artists” to help them style their shoes. Lacey Atwood hired her friend, Jawaugn Arnold, to make her shoes shine like Wonder Woman. Atwood said, “This event is cool, because we get to give something back through this normal everyday thing.”
Celia Jones, an artist in her own right, went with spray paint and a splatter effect. “The more color, the better,” Jones said. “This event combines the best of both worlds. It is a good cause and a lot of fun.
More than 40 people bought shoes for the event, according to Jeremy Hardy, BC’s director of student activities, who said he hopes to make “Style Your Sole” an annual venture at Bluefield College.