This winter has been one of the toughest in years, which makes this Kentucky man’s initiative all the more special. Richard Hudgins has decided to go barefoot for an entire year to create awareness about the plight of shoeless children around the world. He also hopes to raise money for the cause.
“For 365 days I’m going to wear no shoes to collect new shoes and raise money to buy shoes for children who have never had the luxury of owning a pair,” Hudgins wrote on his Facebook page ‘No Shoes for a Year’. “At the end of the year I’m going to take all of the money that I’ve raised and talk to as many shoes companies as I can. Hopefully, I can raise enough money that they really really want it and they’ll make a contribution as well.”
Hudgins, a hairstylist from Louisville, started the charity campaign in December. His first day barefoot was the hardest. “After that first hour-and-a-half, I was like no way, I can’t do this, there’s no way.” He even abandoned his workout and left the gym when he saw the manager approaching him. “It was kind of humiliating, I didn’t expect that at all,” he said. He almost gave up after that, until he saw his first $5 donation on the website. “That really inspired me and I said I’m going to keep doing it, I’m going to keep going.”
So far, he has gone barefoot to work, to the supermarket, dropped his daughter at school and even made it to the gym. It’s really amazing how he could make it in such harsh weather. “You really do build a tolerance up,” he said. “The ice isn’t so bad; it’s the snow, because the snow gets on top of my feet.”
On his Facebook page, Hudgins also wrote about the people who are forced to go barefoot every day. “The reality of life for many individuals in developing nations is that having a pair of shoes is a rarity. Over 300 million children worldwide are without shoes.” He highlights the dangers of not wearing shoes – puncture wounds, cuts, scrapes, and burns. And in some cases, hookworm or threadworm infections too.
Hudgins’ goal is to raise $25,000 by the end of the year. He then wants to take the money to Kenya, where children need uniforms and shoes to go to school. According to Elijah Ombati, a Kenyan missionary, the amount is good enough to buy durable shoes for over 800 kids. “The need is high, and the need is growing day by day,” said Ombati. “Those who are from middle class families, they have shoes, but those who are poor, maybe a friend gave them shoes, or maybe they are still looking, or maybe the shoes are torn. Some even share shoes.”
So far, Hudgins has managed to raise $4,000. Donors are also sending in boxes of new shoes. He got the barefoot idea from Toms Shoes, after the store challenged its customers to go without shoes for a day. “I thought one day without shoes was a pretty cool idea, but I wanted to go big or go home, so I decided to do a year.”
Mostly, Hudgins has found people to be supportive of his cause. “You’d be surprised how many places don’t have those (no shoes) signs,” he said. Most businesses don’t have a problem with him walking in barefoot. Even his gym is okay with it now. But a few people do point and stare, or throw him a dirty look sometimes. There was only one place – a sandwich shop – that flatly refused to serve him.