Excited voices and laughter filled the classrooms at Pioneer Elementary Thursday morning as 471 students unboxed their own, brand new pair of shoes.
A collective group of loan officers reached out to a teacher at the West Valley City school last month to get the ball rolling on the idea. The group is made up of 27 women throughout Utah who call themselves the Hope Hive. The group measured every kid for the right size and raised funds to purchase the shoes.
"We're a Title 1 school, so we're a high poverty school. It's exciting because a lot of these kids have shoes that are too small or even way too big just because they (the families) can't afford shoes a lot of the time," Doug Johnson, principal at Pioneer Elementary said. "Setting them up with a brand new pair of shoes is a big deal."
The students were just as excited to see their peers receive new shoes as they were to receive their own.
In one second grade classroom, students eagerly waited for their names to be called, cheering on their fellow students as they walked to the front of the classroom to unbox their shoes. They excitedly compared their new kicks, shelling out compliments on how "cool" everyone's new pairs were.
"I hope I get pink shoes," said one girl.
"It's been such an exciting thing, a lot of these students usually wear a big brother's shoe or a father's shoe and try to make them work," said Sheri Woods, a second grade teacher at Pioneer Elementary. "When they go out to recess, they can't really run and play — they have to slop around in these shoes. And if it's winter, where there's lots of snow, it's even worse."
Woods also talked about how students receiving shoes creates a sense of community.
"That's a strengthening thing for our classroom," Woods said. "I had to take a moment and not just cry about it because it was really emotional to see them so happy about something that's so simple."
"It'll lift morale for sure, especially while we're in the holiday season. This will just make things that much better for these kids," Johnson said.
Correction: An earlier version incorrectly reported that loan officers from Altius Mortgage Group reached out to a teacher with the idea for the shoe giveaway. It was actually a group of 27 loan officers throughout Utah.