Owen Possick, 11, of Weehawken, and Tige Anderson, 12, of Hoboken stood in the driveway of Owen’s Weehawken home last week and sorted pairs of sneakers into boxes – and on a day off from school, no less.
“I want to keep the environment clean and reduce the carbon footprint of our nation, which is larger than all the others in the world,” said Tige.
They plan to donate the footwear to Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe drive, which takes sneaker donations and turns them into materials for playgrounds, basketball courts, running tracks, and more.
So far they have collected around 350 pairs, but their goal is to collect 500. They technically have until Tuesday, Feb. 28; but Owen’s mom, Cathy Villa-Possick, plans to mail the donations the following Friday (Nike will “foot” the shipping bill).
“I’m doing this because we need to help the earth,” Owen said. “I want to help communities get playgrounds for their kids, and I think it’s great that they can use old sneakers to do that.”
Kick-starting community service
Their school, the private Mustard Seed School in Hoboken, is known for its student involvement in the community. According to Owen, both he and Tige have participated in multiple food drives, toy drives, and volunteer projects.
But in this instance, the two took their own initiative.
Tige’s mom Judith happened upon Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe website about a month ago, and believing her son would be interested, she showed him. According to the website, over 300 million pairs of shoes are thrown away every year; a statistic the boys could not stomach. So Tige recruited Owen and the two decided to begin the application process Nike requires to take part in the drive.
Nike asks that school groups and community organizations commit to collecting either 500 or 2,500 shoes. Part of the reason for this, the website says, is that the popularity of the program has grown to the point where their recycling plant in Tennessee works almost beyond capacity. Therefore, the company must stagger when groups participate.
Larger shipments also mean more efficient and environmentally conscious packaging.
Once approved, the boys had one week to prepare and three weeks to collect.
Because of their extraordinary – and media publicized – efforts, Nike extended their collection deadline one week.
“I want to keep the environment clean and reduce the carbon footprint of our nation.” –Tige Anderson
In addition to putting together flyers and boxes in their school, Owen and Tige attended a Hoboken City Council meeting on Feb. 8 to announce their intention to collect 500 pairs of sneakers. They placed collection bins in their school and in Hoboken City Hall and Weehawken Town Hall.
The boys also created their own You Tube video entitled “What can you do with a nasty old shoe?” They filmed themselves, slapstick fashion, test-driving “dirty old smelly shoes” in different ways: as pets, as phones, and even as a “dirty old smelly shoe-flavored drink” before coming to the conclusion that donating them to Nike was the best (and least absurd) way to go.
The pair even appeared on cable’s Channel 18 on Feb. 14 to further encourage the community to donate their used footwear.
Their efforts worked well. In addition to many individual donations, Possick-Villa said the boys received around 100 pairs from Fleet Feet in Hoboken, as well as a whole bunch of shoes from K.C. Kids consignment shop in Hoboken.
Call for donations
Owen and Tige urge the community to continue to donate to their cause.
They request athletic shoes only, but not damp, muddy, or containing cleats. Any brand is okay, but please no dress shoes, sandals, or flip-flops.
Those who wish to donate may drop them off at Weehawken Town Hall at 400 Park Ave., Hoboken City Hall at 94 Washington St., or at the Mustard Seed School at 422 Willow Ave. They may also call (201) 388-1376 for pickup.
For more information on Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe program, visit www.nikereuseashoe.com.
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