Saturday, January 26, 2008


IUPUI (Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis, Jaguars, 21,784 students, Indianapolis, IA) coach Ron Hunter coached himself right out of his socks…and his shoes.

Coaching barefoot -- it was the most visible facet of his campaign to collect athletic shoes for children in need in Africa, something he started a month ago after meeting Samaritan's Feet founder Emmanuel "Manny" Ohonme,

Hunter’s original goal was to get folks to donate 30,000 pairs of shoes to the cause. After news of his endeavor started getting out, and shoes started coming in, he mentioned he might increase the goal to 40,000, in honor of the 40th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

By tipoff, he had 110,000 pairs.

IUPUI announced that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security had donated 10,000 pairs, with the possibility of more to come. Soles4Souls, a Nashville-based charity, donated 40,000 pairs. Wal-Mart gave 25,000; Nine West, a women's shoe company, offered another 5,200. Converse donated 15,000 during Hunter's appearance on ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike in the Morning" on Thursday. (For $29.99 at, you can donate two pairs of shoes to the effort, or buy one pair and donate a pair.)

"When we started this I thought 40,000 was going to be tough," Hunter told the Indianapolis Star. "When they told me before the game we already had 100,000, honestly, I almost broke down in tears."

Most of the shoes are being shipped directly to Samaritan's Feet, based in Charlotte, N.C. The non-profit group was started four years ago by Ohonme, a Nigerian whose own goal is to get shoes to 10 million people in 10 years.

Hunter, 43, has said he has been deeply affected by Samaritan's Feet and the mission he's joined, and his players have been touched as well. Some of them are intending to join Hunter this summer, when he flies to Africa to help distribute the shoes. Hunter has said he would like to go specifically to Cameroon, the homeland of Jaguars freshman guard Christian Siakam.

And, according to the Star, a man with no ties to IUPUI has offered to charter a jet to fly the team and the shoes to Africa -- pending approval from the suits in Kansas City, of course.

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