Getting shoes is awesome, but giving them is even better. For Kicks 4 Kids Founder CheKeita Jones, this isn’t just a motto but a way of life. A sneakerhead and a philanthropist, her lifelong passion for kicks and helping kids have collided with her charitable work. Hear how it all comes together in the interview below.
Nice Kicks: Tell us a little bit about your personal relationship with sneakers and sneaker culture.
CheKeita Jones: I grew up loving sneakers and all major trends. My sister is 8 years my senior so I was basically raised as an only child. I can remember in 5th grade getting a pair of black and white Patrick Ewings for my 10th birthday! I can also remember getting my first pair of Air Jordans 13 “He Got Games” in 1997! I had my aunt take me to the mall to buy a pair. She had no idea what we were getting ourselves into regarding all the hype around the J’s. I had no idea about the sneaker culture. I only knew what I liked and I was fortunate enough to get the sneakers that I loved.
As an adult I began to fall in love with kicks again when my close friend opened a sneaker store, Burn Rubber. It was like I had an excuse to buy and wear sneakers again. My eyes were opened to a culture that I had never known. I had always loved kicks, however I never knew the impact they had on people’s lives.
Nice Kicks: What was the impetus behind creating a charity that combines your love of sneakers and helping kids?
CheKeita Jones: The charity began organically. I was a 6th grade teacher at a school in Pontiac, Michigan. I would always wear sneakers on dress down days and my students would always ask where did I get my shoes. We began to bond over fresh kicks and popular culture. It was then that I noticed how much of an impact shoes had on my students.
In the early Spring of 2011, I noticed that my kids were still wearing boots or old worn out shoes. I thought about all the sneaker heads and how cool it would be for everyone to come together to give back. I decided to put together a fundraiser to get my classroom sneakers. The fundraiser was such a success I was able to get every 6th grade student in the school a pair of kicks. I did this for three consecutive years and in 2013 I turned my passion into a nonprofit organization. I wanted to positively impact more youth in need of footwear. My main goal is to remain proactive not reactive. Therefore, I want to provide youth in need quality footwear before their shoes fall apart and/or they are being teased and bullied for things that are out of control.
Nice Kicks: What has been the most rewarding part of building this charity?
CheKeita Jones: The most rewarding part of building this charity is the KIDS!!! I believe wholeheartedly that “It May Just Be A Pair Of Kicks To You, But To A Child It Means The World…” The kids are grateful and they are always in shock of the quality footwear we give them. I have had students cry tears of joy, kids ask can they keep the shoes, and tons of smiles! It’s amazing how a pair of dope kicks can make your day!
What I absolutely adore is that Kicks 4 Kids Foundation has sparked many students to pay if forward to others. I have had students participate in can food drives and community initiatives within their community or at their schools.
Nice Kicks: What are your plans for expansion – other cities within Michigan?
CheKeita Jones: I like to think BIG and I would love for Kicks 4 Kids Foundation to expand to every major inner city within the US. Eventually we would like to expand to every city within Michigan that has students of low socioeconomic status. However, we are currently sponsoring students in Detroit and Pontiac. We plan on adding Flint, MI in 2017. One of our board members was born and raised in Flint.
This year we are actually hosting an online contest for teachers to win sneakers for their classroom this Spring during teacher appreciation week, May 2-May 6. There are only three requirements to enter the contest.
– Teach in the continental USA.
– Teach at a school that has 75% free or reduced lunch.
– Teach grades 3 through 9.
– Teacher registration for the contest will be April 15th through April 30th on Kicks 4 Kids – – – Foundation website, www.kicks4kidsfoundation.org.
Nice Kicks: How can our readers — both local and non-local — get involved?
CheKeita Jones: Readers can get involved by spreading the mission of Kicks 4 Kids Foundation. More exposure would allow us to support more youth in need. I would love for people to follow our social media (Facebook: Kicks 4 Kids Foundation, Instagram: Kicks 4 Kids Foundation, Twitter: @supportK4K) and keep up with our upcoming events. We are only able to provide kicks for kids through monetary and sneaker donations. Therefore, we accept donations all year around.
We would love to collaborate and work with other people, nonprofits, or businesses that share our same passion for sneakers and youth.
Local fans should also volunteer to support our events.
Special thanks to CheKeita Jones. Keep up with Kicks 4 Kids via their website.