NYer Of The Week: Young Shoe Designer Helps Sneaker Donations Reach Barefoot Kids
The latest New Yorker of the Week is a high school student who has turned his love of stylish sneakers into a charity to help those who need shoes. NY1's Rome Torre filed the following report.
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It is not unusual for teenagers to want to look cool. Ben Charles, 16, is one of them, a self-confessed sneaker addict.
"I used to collect a lot of sneakers," says Ben. "I have a basketball sneaker, a tennis sneaker, a 'hang-out' sneaker."
But an image of a barefoot child in Haiti following the country's devastating earthquake made Ben realize some people his age are not lucky enough to have even one pair of sneakers.
"That picture is still in my head today. It’s that kid with his feet where you don’t even want to see it. He was beat up, dirty. It looked like he'd never been in a pair of sneakers," says Ben.
Instead of looking away, he decided to do something.
"One day, I might be that other person and I hope there is another 16-year-old kid that would give to people that need," says Ben.
He set out to create a charity to help those less fortunate discover his love of shoes.
"I feel like when you put on sneakers you feel confident. What good am I doing creating a company charging a $100 for a sneaker? Let's donate a sneaker to someone that needs one," says Ben.
This past summer, Saves by B was born, a line of sneakers designed by Ben. For every pair sold, another identical pair will be given to a child who cannot afford sneakers.
"You might be the kid that I donated it to or you might be the kid that bought it. Nobody's going to know. It gives everyone that equal opportunity," says Ben.
The sneakers are distributed with the help of K.I.D.S. and Hoops 4 Hope.
"Many of our kids show up without shoes. It's hard to put into words how much that pair of sneakers really means to them," says Hoops 4 Hope founder Mark Crandall.
It makes Ben not only a trendsetter but also a charitable role model.
"When I heard what Ben was doing, I was so impressed. Here a young high school student has felt that it is his duty and his interest to help people around the world," says K.I.D.S. President Janice Weinman.
"He's doing something purely kind right now but he’s also doing something cool," says Jeremy Hoffman, Ben's friend.
So, for helping teenagers in need fill their closets, one sneaker at a time, Ben Charles is the latest New Yorker of the Week. To get your own pair of Saves by B and for more information, visit Saves By B's Facebook page.
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