Last year, teacher Dana Cerbone told her son Dominic about a young boy in her class who was sleeping on someone’s couch with his mother due to a financial hardship.
Sympathetic to the situation, Dominic has spent the past year sharing his clothes with the boy and sending him holiday gifts. About two months ago, after realizing they have a similar shoe size, the 11-year-old decided to give the boy his favorite pair of sneakers.
“My mom said he was really happy when he got them,” said Dominic, who lives in Wading River. “I remember seeing in my head his face, smiling. I wanted to do that for other kids.”
So he approached his mother with the idea of creating Shoes 4 Kids L.I., an initiative to collect new or gently used footwear to donate to children in need.
“Of course I was proud,” Ms. Cerbone said. “He’s always had a big heart and big concerns and focuses on helping others, so I wasn’t surprised. I’m glad he decided to act on that feeling.”
A sixth-grader at Shoreham-Wading River Middle School, Dominic already collected dozens of pairs of shoes and sneakers for in sizes ranging from toddler to teen. He and his mother have also created shirts with the words “Shoes 4 Kids L.I.” to give to friends and frequent donors as a thank-you. When creating the logo, Dominic chose to use the number 4 instead of the word “for” to represent the number on his hockey jersey.
Ms. Cerbone, who is a teacher in the Patchogue-Medford School District, sent letters to local superintendents, including those at SWR, Patchogue-Medford and Miller Place, asking for permission to set up donation boxes in the lobbies at the district’s schools. She and her son also want to reach out to social workers to see if there is a need for a certain shoe style or size for children and teens in the area.
Should they receive permission, Ms. Cerbone hopes Dominic will be able to leave donation boxes at a school for a week or two and send notices home with students asking them to place shoes in the boxes during that time.
Learning Experience in Rocky Point has already granted them permission to leave a Shoes 4 Kids L.I. box at its pre-school. Dominic is also interested in having local businesses place boxes in their stores.
“I want to distribute the shoes to kids around [Suffolk County],” he said. “Kids that don’t have shoes, or the shoes are too small for them. I want to get enough so that I can give a pretty decent amount to kids.”
Anyone interested in donating can contact Dominic and Ms. Cerbone through their Facebook page, Shoes 4 Kids LI.
“I think it’s important that kids have shoes because in the winter, if they don’t have shoes or their shoes don’t fit them, their feet are going to get really cold,” Dominic said. “That’s terrible. They should have shoes that fit them in the winter so they can not freeze their feet and so they can walk without their feet aching.”