Randall Middle School eighth grader Camden Grant is on a mission to provide students at Booker T. Washington (BTW) Elementary School with a new pair of sneakers. It started with the hope to buy shoes for 67 first graders. She never imagined how her idea would take off with support from classmates, the community and even people across the country.
The FishHawk teen was inspired by the kids at the Title I school in Ybor City, where she and other Randall Middle School students volunteered for the MLK Day of Service in January.
“Basically our goal was to teach a literacy lesson. The smiles across their faces just made my heart so happy. So, I wanted to create something to have an even bigger effect on the students,” Grant said.
On the bus ride back to Randall, the teen texted her mom asking for her support to do something more to help the students in need at BTW.
“When my kids have ideas, I’m a mom that I try to make it happen,” said Laurie Bumberg, Grant’s mom. And with that, they launched the “Soles Shaping Souls” project.
“We decided to create the shoe donation drive for them,” Grant said. “I noticed that some of them have holes in them, or they’re worn down, or their little toes are sticking out, and so I just wanted to create something so they could play, and jump, and have a good summer and a good start to the year.”
“She wanted to bring a service project back and provide shoes for all of our first graders. It was just inspirational,” said B. T. Washington Elementary School Principal Jaime Gerding.
Grant and her Randall Middle School friends, Cody Basquill and Grace Corl, camped out on the floor and carefully measured each first graders’ foot with devices typically seen in a shoe store.
“I got my feet measured, so I can get some new shoes. Everybody’s getting new shoes and that makes me happy,” said one first grade student, Kamoni.
“School is supposed to be a place where you have to focus on learning, but some of them are focusing on how hungry they are or something else, and so I just wanted to create something to kind of take their mind off that and to show them that there are good things out there,” Grant said.
Nearly all BTW students are on the district’s free or reduced lunch program. Principal Gerding knows that a new pair of shoes can help ease the financial strain on families.
“It really is a wonderful gift to our community, who are so deserving and work very hard to provide for their kids, and care so much about their students, so it is truly a gift for us to be able to give back. So, we thank Camden for that, because the gift would not be happening without her support,” Gerding said.
Grant set up a GoFundMe account: https://www.gofundme.com/soles-shaping-souls
Her initial goal was to raise $2,500 to cover the cost of the shoes for the entire first grade. People across the country have contributed to the cause.
“I partnered with One World One Child. They offered to match $250 in funds. Operation Lotus also generously donated $250,” Grant said.
The Randall Area Youth Service Council started a spare change collection as part of a homeroom competition with a cupcake party on the line. Students also gathered $250 from parents during the morning student drop-off.
“We decided to expand into Randall, and I’m collaborating with the Rays Club. So, we made a donation drive. I would love to continue this and maybe expand it to two grade levels or even the whole school,” said Grant.
Grant is getting her wish. GoFundMe donated $2,000 to the project. She’s now topped $6,000 – more than double her initial goal – and is expanding the project to buy shoes for every BTW second grader.
Shoe Carnival in Brandon is giving Grant 30 percent off the entire purchase.
“It makes me feel really good. It’s just that warm feeling in your heart,” said Grant.
“For students to be giving back to students, I don’t think you can have a better example of what it means to be a part of the Hillsborough County School system as that. It’s just a privilege to be able to be part of Camden’s dream and a part of the school district,” Gerding said.
Grant plans to deliver the shoes in May before the end of the school year. Students, like Kamoni, can’t wait.
“Thank you for the shoes, because I’m really happy,” said Kamoni.
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