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Academy Sports gives new kicks to homeless families

Molly Hulsey //September 8, 2020//

Academy Sports gives new kicks to homeless families

Molly Hulsey //September 8, 2020//

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Academy Sports donated 65 pairs of tennis shoes to children living in Greenville-area hotels on Sept. 4. (Photo/Molly Hulsey)Editor's note: The headline on the previous version of this story misidentified the company involved. Academy Sports and Outdoors donated the shoes. The headline has been updated.

As summer came to a close, Diana Watson, chief philanthropy officer with the YMCA of Greenville, knew that 100 families the organization had served with meal boxes over the past few months would face even more challenges when virtual school doors reopened.

These families have been forced to set up residence in nine Greenville-area hotels and motels, most in the Pleasantburg Drive and Interstate 85 area, Watson said. For them, school supplies are just another dent in an already thin budget.

“I think it’s truly a challenge for any family, but for those who are in these hotels that are considered homeless, I think the challenges not only include the financial needs that they have and the lack of kitchens and the ability to even heat and keep food, but also the fact that from a technology basis, they’re not as tied in from the e-learning perspective,” Watson said. “I think a lot of these families and for these children, COVID becomes an even deeper struggle for them.”

Watson reached out to Academy Sports and Outdoors on Woodruff Road to make a bulk purchase of tennis shoes. After hearing more about the families sheltering in hotels and motels across the county, the fitness outfitter donated the footwear free of charge. Sixty-five pairs of them.

One of the families served by the YMCA meal program is presented with shoe boxes and backpacks. (Photo/Molly Hulsey)“We love to help out with all sorts of groups in the community, but especially those that are really trying to help the kids that have some needs that aren’t filled,” said Liza Barrett, senior regional marketing specialist at Academy.

Academy Sports also donated backpacks and gift cards for 15 future shoe purchases when a YMCA bus stopped by on Friday to pick up the four cartloads of sneakers. Three children from one of the program’s families tore into their boxes and admired their new shoes and bags.

“It’s a great program,” Barrett said at the event. “It fits really well for us because we’re kind of in that back-to-school, back-to-sport time frame that looks a little bit different this year, but it’s still a great way for us to help out the local community.”