Children helping children

Amsterdam youths raise funds to purchase adjustable shoes

Youths at St. Ann's Episcopal Church in Amsterdam raised money to supply children in underdeveloped countries with growth-adjustable shoes that can help protect them from soil-transmitted diseases. They are, from left, first row, Noah Longe and Jon LaFore; second row, Tony Donohue, Maria Longe and Emily Donohue; back row, Alexandra Betz, Carson Munn and Emily Reed. Missing from photo are Davina Etkin and Austin Casale. LaFore is wearing a stole because he was recently baptized by the Rt. Rev. William Love, bishop of Albany. Some of the children are holding award plaques for memorizing the Old and New Testament books of the Bible. An example of The Shoe That Grows is in the foreground. (Photo submitted)

AMSTERDAM — Something as simple as a pair of shoes can make a big difference in the life of children living in poverty in underdeveloped countries–a pair of shoes helps keep a child healthy, in school and in a position to succeed.

The children of Christ the King religious education class at St. Ann’s Episcopal Church recently undertook a mission project to raise funds to purchase The Shoe That Grows, adjustable shoes for growing children in developing nations who have no shoes, according to the Rev. Nancy C. Betz, a retired priest who is in charge of religious education.

The children’s goal was to raise enough money to purchase 100 pair of shoes, which adds up to $1,500. They surpassed their goal and decided to try for 200 pair. They reached their goal and raised $3,240. One anonymous donor gave them $1,000. The shoes will be taken to Haiti this summer and handed out to the children who desperately need them.

Betz got the project going by showing the youths a video of children in underdeveloped countries who have no shoes and are plagued with soil-transmitted disease. Betz said the children were saddened by what they saw–“the feet of these poor children, the sores on their feet.”

“They couldn’t believe that people have to live like that. I want these kids to understand how privileged they are.”

The Shoe That Grows was designed to grow with the foot of a child adjusting and expanding and lasting for years. These hard-wearing sandals will expand five sizes and last five years, helping millions of the world’s poorest children, said Betz.

With this shoe, a child can always have a pair of shoes that fit.

More than 300 million children do not have shoes, and countless more with shoes that do not fit. Sometimes they receive donations of shoes, but children’s feet grow rapidly, and they outgrow these donated shoes within a year and end up right back where they started.

With this shoe, a child can always have a pair of shoes that fit. They can stay healthy and happy, ready to take the next steps to their future, Betz said.

More than two billion people suffer from soil-transmitted diseases and parasites, she said. They live in areas that do not have adequate sanitation. They struggle with proper hygiene. They do not have the right clothing, resources or health care. Being sick equals struggling. Children miss school, they can’t help their families, they suffer with pain. Many of these diseases and parasites get into the body simply because people don’t have shoes.

The Shoe That Grows is a patented design of an innovative shoe that adjusts and expands.

It was developed with the help of multiple shoe design firms inspired by feedback from those who need them. The shoe comes in three sizes: youth small, youth large and adult.

They are made of quality materials: compressed rubber (similar to that of a car tire), anti-bacterial synthetic and high-grade, tactical Velcro, no mechanical parts or gears to break, easy to clean and easy to use. “It’s an absolutely brilliant design,” Betz said.

One of the best parts of The Shoe That Grows is how easy it is to transport, she said. It compresses into itself so that 50 pairs of the small size can fit in a regular suitcase that weighs 50 pounds.

Eventually St. Ann’s children will receive a report and photos about the good their fundraising has done. The group thanked to those who gave generously to help them meet the goal. Anyone interested in helping a child to get a pair of shoes should go to

Betz, formerly ministering in parishes on the St. Lawrence River, said she is exploring other projects for the youths.