Students, needy get TOMS shoes

Having a pair of shoes is a luxury USF student Amber Soofi has often taken for granted.

“Shoes are something everybody has,” said Soofi, a freshman majoring in biomedical science. “And you never really think about how bad it would be not to have shoes.”

Thanks to collaborative efforts between USF student organizations, 100 children have a new pair from TOMS, a shoe company that donates a pair of shoes to the impoverished for each pair sold.

Anthropology Club, Latin American Student Association, Dominican American Student Association and the Pre-Pharmacy Club donated surplus funds from their Student Government-allocated budget, consisting of student-paid Activity and Service (A&S) fees, to support the Cuban American Student Association (CASA)’s cause.

That money was used to purchase 100 pairs of TOMS shoes, which were given to USF students on a first-come, first-serve basis at the “Color Your Sole” event in the Marshall Student Center Amphitheater on Thursday.

In order to receive shoes, students had to e-mail their name, U-number and shoe size to an e-mail account created by CASA for the event, said Silvia Soto, president of CASA.

Just three hours after creating a Facebook page to promote the event, the shoes were gone, she said.

A tight budget made it difficult to host this charitable cause, so the aid from other student organizations helped, Soto said.

About $7,000 was raised – $6,000 of which was used for purchasing the shoes, Soto said. The remainder of the funds went toward renting the Amphitheater.

“Certain organizations already had events scheduled for (Thursday), so we decided to fuse all these events,” said Soto, a junior majoring in international studies. “We are thankful for all the student organizations that responded to our call.”

Students who received shoes painted them with the help of the College of the Arts.

The USF chapter of CASA is the first to sponsor a “Color Your Sole” event in the Tampa Bay area, said Frank Hernandez, graduate adviser for CASA.

“Our affiliate, Roots of Hope, started floating around the idea to have CASA chapters all over the U.S. to put on an event like this,” Hernandez said. “With the idea that shoes from TOMS would go to youth in Cuba.”

But those plans changed when, in the midst of planning, CASA was told they were unable to send shoes to Cuban children because it would be difficult for TOMS employees to acquire visas in the country.

Instead, TOMS will distribute the shoes to a country they typically work with, Hernandez said.

Despite the change, Hernandez said he would like to see this event happen every year.

“I think this event is a fusion of cultures coming together and working together,” he said. “It’s serving something that’s bigger than us.”

Several organizations provided entertainment at the event, said CASA spokeswoman Mariloly Orozco, a senior majoring in political science.

FACES Modeling Troupe, comprised of USF students, held two fashion shows. Sigma Beta Rho, Alpha Phi Alpha and Lambda Theta Phi fraternities performed step routines.