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March 31, 2011

New club invites students to "Experience the Walk" on April 4

As winter turns to spring, more University of Louisiana at Monroe students are spending their weekends shucking shoes and enjoying the barefoot feel of grass under their feet.

But for other young adults and children around the world, the barefoot lifestyle is far from a luxurious weekend nicety.

It is a way of life that puts them at risk every day. That's the message that Meghan Aymond, ULM TOMS Shoes Campus Club President, wants to get across to her peers.

"The whole purpose of TOMS is to donate shoes for children worldwide. What many people don't realize is that many children in developing countries grow up never owning a single pair of shoes," said Aymond, a senior pre-pharmacy major from Watson. "This is a huge problem because it can lead to soil-transmitted diseases and dangerous injuries."

Aymond said often these same children can't attend school barefoot and, if they don't receive an education, they don't have the opportunity to realize their potential.

She explained how Toms Shoes, a company founded on the principle of donating one pair of shoes for every new pair it sells, now has hundreds of TOMS Shoes Campus Clubs across the nation, including the new one at ULM headed by Aymond.

These clubs have formed to amplify the message of conscientious consumerism.

In order to raise people's awareness of the problem, Aymond said the club is offering new activities during Spring Fever week at ULM, including an "Experience the Walk" opportunity.

"'Experience the Walk' is an area filled with hard dirt and gravel for people to walk barefoot across, just to get a minor glimpse of what children around the world experience every day," said Aymond.

The ULM TOMS Shoes Club will hold their event from 12-2 p.m., Monday, April 4, in ULM's Bayou Park.

Event sponsors are the ULM Campus Activities Board, mortgage lender GMFS, and Raising Canes restaurant.

Club members will offer large canvases in which budding artists may paint, while others may choose to render their artwork on a pair of white canvas shoes that can be purchased through or locally at River Outfitters on Tower Drive in Monroe.

All may be entered into a drawing for a pair of TOMS shoes following the event.

Aymond also extended an invitation to Ouachita Parish residents to recycle their gently worn shoes on April 4.

The shoe collection is in partnership with another charitable organization, Soles4Souls Inc., which has committed to collect and distribute 11 million shoes in 2011 to people living in extreme poverty and recovering from natural disasters through its "11 IN 11" campaign.

Since 2005, Soles4Souls has distributed more than 12 million pairs of shoes because of the generosity and commitment of people and organizations like ULM TOMS Shoes, according to Aymond.

"I think it is so easy for students to take things for granted, like something as simple as the ability to wake up in the morning and strap a pair of shoes on," said Aymond. "I hope that we can raise awareness that there is something we can do to help."

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