Nine-year-old Keshaun Williams laced up his new red-and-black kicks while sitting on the Fosco Park playground slide Friday before letting the red bunny ears criss-cross the tree before jumping into the hole and out the other end.
“I’m excited because red is my favorite color,” Keshaun said. “I got the black shoes first because they looked cool, and now I think I have too much. But I haven’t gotten any new shoes this summer, so I’m excited. The red and black match the Bulls — that’s cool.”
The Chicago Housing Authority and Operation Warm, a national nonprofit organization known for distributing coats to youth in need, partnered Friday for the first time to give away free athletic shoes. The Summer Kicks event was funded by Molina Healthcare Illinois.
“I grew up in the Chicago area, so this is personal, because I was one of those kids whose parents didn’t have a lot of money and I got gifts from the community,” said Tanairi Coriano, a Molina Healthcare health assessor. “Every kid I’ve talked to today has just been so appreciative and happy.”
Operation Warm added its Warm Souls program in February to provide athletic shoes to children ages 3 to 10, who sometimes outgrow several pairs in a year. The program has given away over 30,000 shoes nationwide.
About 75 pairs of shoes were given to kids who registered for the event Friday, though 144 pairs were available. The remaining shoes were given to the Chicago Housing Authority to distribute to families in need.