Shoe drive helps youth shine in Tonganoxie
TMS students’ quest for service dog gets assist from classmates, school
An outpouring of shoe donation is expected to eventually pave Taylor McWilliams’ journey to Ohio.
Taylor, a sixth-grader at Tonganoxie Middle School, has spina bifida and is susceptible to seizures.
An Ohio non-profit organization, 4 Paws for Ability, specializes in service dogs with an emphasis on children and veterans.
Her mother, Brittany McWilliams, said training and getting paired with a service dog is expensive.
Part of the process is raising $15,000, as each animal, on average, costs at least $36,000 to train and place with a disabled child .
The family was able to raise the required $15,000 through monetary donations to a site that sends money directly to 4 Paws for Ability.
There’s also an additional $5,000 to cover transportation and lodging during the two-week training at the service dog organization.
For those costs, others in the program suggested different fundraising options, including Funds2Orgs, a company that purchases shoes that then distributes the shoes in third-world countries.
Thanks to assistance from Taylor’s classmates in her life skills class, and the shoe donations of many, the family met its goal.
“We were blessed for donations,” said Brittany.
Julie Crowley teaches life skills class at Tonganoxie Middle School and got her class involved. Eventually, the drive was taking place at Tonganoxie Middle School, Tonganoxie Elementary School and beyond.
The family set a goal of 7,500 pairs of shoes and just recently met that goal. Funds2Orgs pays 40 cents for each pound of shoes donated.
Brittany said that the company accepts “gently worn” shoes. She had a general rule of thumb to define the term.
“If you would give them to your neighbor or friend to wear, then they’re totally fine,” she said.
TMS students had an assembly in the fall. That’s when Crowley’s class let others know about the drive.
In late October, TMS had a shoe drive. Students got a raffle ticket for every pair of shoes they brought in. For those bringing in five, they earned bonus tickets. Various donated prizes were given to the school. In that week, the school brought in 964 shoes weighing 1,002 pounds.
“I could tell it was so much more than shoes for all students, not just my students,” Crowley said. “I was very proud and honored that they helped out.”
Crowley’s students made posters, helped with the raffle and counted shoes. They were able to work on computer, public speaking and math skills to name a few during the drive.
And, though they quit counting after the weeklong drive, the donations kept coming in.
“I didn’t think I’d be so happy to see so many garbage bags full of shoes, but it was great,” Crowley said with a laugh.
The drive is continuing until at least Feb. 12, Brittany said. Though the goal has been met, she said additional funds would go toward veterinarian costs and the like for the service dog.
The two-week training won’t be until October 2017, but she and her husband, Lucas, have plenty to do in preparation.
For instance, when Taylor suffers a seizure, the family is to take the shirt she’s wearing and send it to the service dog organization so that the dog can be trained to sense the smell of the shirt during the seizure.
Taylor’s dog primarily will assist with seizure alert, but also will provide general assistance, such as picking up an item from the floor and mobility.
The process in working toward a service dog has been lengthy, but Taylor is ready for it.
“I’m really excited to go to Ohio to meet my service dog,” Taylor said, according to her mother.