The Rotary Club of Orangeburg, along with the Orangeburg County School District and Hibbett Sports, joined together last week to give local children “Happy Feet.”

The event was held to provide shoes to a select group of students from various elementary schools.

“This is a project our club started several years ago,” Rotary Club President Margaret Frierson said. “We were able to write a grant through our district and our club matched it.”

“We’re thrilled. We got all schools represented. These children were selected by their guidance counselor at their elementary schools,” Frierson said.

“The Rotary Club of Orangeburg took the leadership on this. Our motto is ‘Service Above Self,’ and it is our goal to give back to the community in any way we can. The school district has been amazing in coordinating all of this because the logistics throughout the county to a centralized location has been a challenge, but they stepped up,” Frierson said.

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The sponsor of the event was Hibbett Sports, which provided shoes and pizza to the children in attendance. One hundred and one pairs of shoes were handed out on Friday afternoon.

“We want to give back to the community. We want them to feel good about themselves and we want them to exercise. We want them to be proud of what they’ve got on their feet and the best part is seeing their faces. I’m a former teacher, so it warms my heart when we can help kids who have been identified as deserving of our shoe program,” Happy Feet Chairman Meredith Baker said

“It has been a joy to work with Hibbett Sports and Janice Franklin. They have gone over and above – they sponsored our pizza party. The kids and what’s making them happy drives the whole thing,” Baker said.

Hibbett Sports Manager Janice Franklin said, “Meredith called me and told me about the Rotary Club and the shoe fulfillment with the kids. As soon as she said the kids, I was all on board. It’s just exciting to be a part of this.

“I’m big on community and family and once she told me they wanted to donate shoes for the kids, I was just excited to be a part of it.”

“It really pulls at my heartstrings and my eyes are a little bit teary eyed. Just to see the smiles on their faces, that’s what this is all about,” Franklin said.

The event was about charity, communion and family for Dr. Hayward Jean, the school district director of student services.

“An event like this shows the kids that there are people who care about them who never met them. They’re going to outgrow these shoes, but they’ll never outgrow the experience of seeing people give to them,” Jean said.

“I saw a great demonstration of the act of love like never before. The kids were loved, they loved each other – they interacted with schools across the district. Our elementary school kids aren’t used to being in cafeterias with schools from different communities. They did it today and it felt like a big family reunion,” Jean said.

“Hopefully what they got out of today is the ability to do that for somebody else – the ability to be givers,” Jean said.

OCSD Superintendent Shawn Foster said the event was a symbol of the character of the people of Orangeburg County.

“This is showing how a group of individuals can come together to invest in our greatest resource, and that’s our kids. The shoes are extremely important, but the shoes are only an outside representation of a bigger picture. There are outstanding students, there are outstanding people and there are outstanding partnerships,” Foster said.

The event was held in Nix Education Center’s cafeteria.

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