AUSTIN (KXAN) — A holiday market that runs through the weekend is raising money for programs that help kids in Austin get new shoes and coats.
The Junior League of Austin is hosting its 43rd-annual market, “A Christmas Affair,” at the Palmer Events Center at 900 Barton Springs Road through Sunday. Proceeds from ticket sales go to the programs the group runs, including a new one this year called Kids in Cool Shoes, or KICS.
The program delivered its first batch of new shoes to Guerrero-Thompson Elementary in north Austin in the spring.
“We were ecstatic,” said Daysi Moreno, a mom of two kids at the school and the PTA president. “We were extremely happy because we can cover some of the needs, but not all of them.”
Parents in the neighborhood are involved in the school as much as they can be, Moreno said, but many have to make hard choices about where their paychecks go.
“Little by little, we started seeing that the necessities that our kids had were bigger than what we could really do for them,” Moreno said.
Other community groups have helped in the past, but that typically meant selecting a few dozen students at most that had the greatest need. KICS volunteers measured every child’s shoe size and came back a month later with a boxed-up pair of kicks for each.
“We were able to give shoes to all of our students,” Guerrero-Thompson principal Lakesha Drinks said.
Courtney Clark, the program’s chair, said they’ve been working on the idea for a few years, but really saw the need last winter when the city saw cold and snow. Some kids were waiting for new jackets through the Junior League’s Coats for Kids drive in flip-flops and shoes with holes in them.
“How can they get outside and be active, how can they participate in sports if they don’t have sneakers, if they don’t have shoes that fit them?” Clark said.
A new pair of shoes can also improve self-esteem and school attendance, she said. That was on full display when volunteers handed out the footwear.
“There were classrooms of kids that were just screaming, jumping up and down,” Clark said. “The best part for me, a lot of the kids said things like, ‘I have never had a brand new pair of shoes before.'”
Companies and other organizations have stepped up since then to fund even more donations. The next round of deliveries, slated for this spring, will include several schools, including elementary and preschools.
A portion of the proceeds from ticket sales at the holiday market will also enable the group to keep up with the need. Moreno, the PTA president, knows how much it helps.
“It helped me as a human because it made me know that there’s people out there thinking about people who really need help,” she said.
The market runs Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Palmer Events Center.