Teens fund clubfoot treatment by selling basketball shoes


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Shoes 4 Change.

Three words that mean more to two 16-year-old boys than just a pair of rare basketball shoes.

Drake Danner and Scott Diekema combined a shared hobby and the desire to help others to create Shoes 4 Change. The project sells rare basketball shoes online, and the proceeds go to treating children with clubfoot — a congenital birth defect that causes one or two feet to turn inward.

"Scott and I were talking one night, and he told me that he had been thinking about selling shoes but donating the money," Danner wrote in an email. "We are selling shoes to give the gift of walking."

Their love for collecting rare basketball shoes lives on.

Diekema, an Iowa City native who now attends school in Massachusetts, stood outside Coral Ridge Mall for two and a half hours on July 7 to purchase a pair of Jordan VI Retro Olympics, but he said this was not the longest he has had to wait for shoes.

"This release wasn't as big," he said. "There are times where you have to go at 2 a.m. and wait until 10 a.m. in front of the store [to get the shoes]."

Although the two have not made any profit yet, the main focus is to get more publicity for the project.

Diekema and Danner have also enlisted help from the sports community to provide assistance in getting the word out. Christian Moody, a former basketball player for Kansas, agreed to work with Shoes 4 Change.

After each pair of shoes are sold, 70 percent of the money is donated, and Diekema said the charity they chose — miraclefeet — hits home for the Iowa City native.

"When I thought about taking this hobby and giving back, miraclefeet was the first organization that came to my mind," he said. "I grew up a few blocks away from Dr. Ponseti, who developed this more effective and affordable treatment for clubfoot … and my best friend growing up who lived a block away — his mom is one of the founders of the organization."

The late Ignacio Ponseti was a doctor at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics who developed a non-surgical method to treat clubfoot, which has since spread globally.

Miraclefeet works to provide treatment to children with clubfoot in developing countries. The group can fully treat a child in a developing country for around $250, and one official said every donation counts.

"It's a cause that young people can get behind, and it's very tangible, and you don't have to raise a lot of money to help a child," said Chesca Colloredo-Mansfeld, the executive director of miraclefeet. "To me, there is something really gratifying about young people helping young people.

Miraclefeet receives different amounts of donations, ranging from $1 million donations by large companies to $10 a month donations from mothers of children who have gone through the treatment.

"In some ways, getting small donations from individual people are just as gratifying as getting large donations," Colloredo-Mansfeld said.

Danner said donating proceeds to miraclefeet made sense because of the direct correlation between selling shoes and donating to children with clubfoot.

"As Americans, we live in a developed country. We often take things for granted — walking is absolutely one of those things," he said. "The quality of one's life is directly influenced by the ability to walk, especially in a developing country in which citizens may have to walk to access food, water, or bathroom facilities."

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