by Taylor Bryant
Shoes are often taken for granted. Think about it. For most, the biggest shoe dilemma they encounter is which pair best matches their outfit for the day. Well, imagine life without shoes. It may be difficult, considering they’ve become such a luxury for getting us from destination to destination. Going further than imagining life without shoes, it’s probably even harder to imagine that you will find thousands of people who will voluntarily embrace the extremity of going shoeless for a whole day- unless you’re business owner and UWG alumna Sidra McWhorter.
Early this year, Sidra used her wit, business intellect and charisma to galvanize over 4,000 people nationwide to take a pledge to bring awareness to an often-overlooked issue. She started by entering her Carrollton, Ga., clothing boutique, Sweet Peas, in the TOMS Shoe Co. One Day Without Shoes Challenge. The response was remarkable!
Locally, Sidra had over 200 residents come to her boutique and walk throughout Carrollton shoeless. Before making their way to the streets, supporters were able to experience a mock run of what it would feel like to go daily without shoes.
“We set up little stations outside the boutique where the pledgees had to walk on sand and rocks, while educating them about all of the diseases that come from not owning footwear,” says Sidra. “This also gave them a first-hand experience of the challenges some kids face while walking long distances to school.”
Nationwide, Sidra managed to drum up the support of 3,800 additional pledgees online, who also agreed to join the challenge and go a day without shoes.
“It was really interesting to see how committed people were,” recalls Sidra. “Even while complaining about how sore their feet were, they continued as we made our way up Maple Street, around UWG and back to my boutique without shoes. It was such an eye-opening experience.”
The purpose of the TOMS Shoe Co. campaign is to bring awareness and education for the more than 740 million people worldwide that are infected with the disease hookworm because they don’t have any shoes. Research shows that even worse, long term effects of not wearing shoes sometimes include stunted growth, decreased cognitive development, anemia and chronic fatigue.
Sidra’s overwhelming support and response from the awareness campaign was so successful that her Sweet Peas Boutique was named the 2013 winner of the One Day Without Shoes Competition.
Sidra says she supported the Toms campaign because of their commitment to community service.
“Toms has given away over four million pairs of shoes throughout the United States,” she shares. “I like supporting a company that truly gives back. I did thorough research before I brought their shoes in my store, and they really do what they say they are going to do.”
Potential supporters who missed the opportunity to be a part of the 2013 campaign with Sweet Peas Boutique may have another opportunity to make a difference in coming months. Sidra says she definitely plans to continue being apart of the campaign in 2014.