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ODU Basketball Players Put Their Best Foot Forward with Shoe Giveaway

By Harry Minium

Jason Wade dipped the little girl's feet into a basin of warm water, then washed them with soap. The water turned a soft brown as he rinsed her He then dried her feet and put on new socks and basketball shoes.

A simple act of kindness, yes, but it was so much more.

Old Dominion University's basketball players went to Jacox Elementary School, in one of Norfolk's most economically challenged neighborhoods, to take part in a recent shoe giveaway sponsored by Samaritan's Feet.

The players took advantage of the having the rapt attention of kids to talk to them about their dreams, and hopefully inspire them to work for a better life.

The girl Wade helped was hesitant to talk but began to open up. They chatted for about 10 minutes.

"She said tomorrow is the first day of school and that she's looking forward to it," said Wade, a sophomore from suburban Richmond. "Then she told me she wanted to be a scientist and we talked about that."

Wade told her that he achieved his dream by working hard in school, staying out of trouble and spending much of his spare time playing basketball. You can become a scientist the same way.

When they were done, she smiled and gave him a hug.

It was an act repeated 500 times by ODU players and coaches in a few hours.

Not every child will remember what was said to them. But If just one life was changed, ODU coach Jeff Jones said, then it was worth it.

Regardless, the five hours at Jacox had a major effect on the players.

"It's an eye opener for our players because when you're in college playing basketball, you get five or six pairs of shoes at a time," assistant coach John Richardson said. "Then when you come here, you see how grateful they are, how wide open their eyes are. They don't care about the value of the shoes. They just want shoes.

"That makes our guys appreciate what they have, how fortunate they are to get a college education. All of these kids here, they just want a chance."

That's why Jones seeks out events like this. He worked with Samaritan's Feet while at American University, and his players have worked camps and done other youth outreach at events.

It was ODU's first time doing a shoe giveaway with Samaritan's Feet, a Christian organization begun by a Nigerian, Emmanuel Ohonme, who got his pair first shoes at age 9. Since becoming successful in the tech field, he has given away more than 7 million shoes worldwide.

Trinity Church, which has services in six area locations, also joined the effort after Robbie Hall, who heads the downtown Norfolk church, and Ronnie McAdoo, the pastor of evangelism for all six locations, met with Jones and assistant coach Bryant Stith.

McAdoo is a former ODU All-American whose wife, Janet Davis McAdoo, was a Monarchs women's basketball standout. Ronnie founded the 1Died4All basketball camps, which holds camps in Africa and attempts to convince kids to become Christians.

Because Jones was working with two Christian organizations, no University money was involved in the project. Jones gave a sizeable donation. He declined to reveal how much, but it was enough to purchase more than 200 pairs of shoes.

"Giving back has become something of a cliché," Jones said. "But I think our guys understand they're very fortunate and they want to help those less fortunate than them. They want to see if they can encourage kids to achieve good things in their lives."

Hall said Trinity Church recently received a call from a guidance counselor at Jacox who said simply, our kids need help.

"Jacox was built in 1949," Hall said. "The school is a part of our city that's under-resourced. When we met with the school administration, it appeared to be the right connection. It's going to benefit the school and our church to form a long-term relationship with them."

Outside Jacox, the line of parents and kids trying to get in was long as word spread about the shoe giveaway via Facebook. As the time for the event to end neared, there were more than 100 in line.

McAdoo told the crowd "anyone who's in line now, you'll get shoes."

Soothing praise music played over loudspeakers. "Love Has a Name," sung by Kim Walker-Smith and Jesus Culture, was playing as McAdoo worked the crowd.

"We are a church and we've got to lift up the name of Jesus in every event we do," McAdoo said. "The washing feet comes from Jesus washing the disciples' feet.

"What an opportunity to show humility. To wash someone's feet and give them new shoes is the ultimate act of humility.

"This was a tremendous blessing. We're so thankful to partner with Jeff Jones and Old Dominion University."

Robin Samuel, whose two boys received shoes, agreed. She works with a non-profit called The Village Family which also helps schoolchildren and families.

"This is a blessing to a lot of kids," Samuel said. "Just to see the smiles on their faces and the excitement you saw today.

"They're very appreciative and their parents are very appreciative."

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Harry Minium

Harry Minium

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