Soles4Souls to Highlight Darfur Crisis

Soles4Souls, the charity that donates shoes worldwide to those in need, is partnering with students to reflect on the lives lost in the ongoing war in Darfur.

On Sunday, students from an international relations class at Briar Woods High School in Ashburn, Va., will join hundreds of volunteers and the charity’s staff to line shoes around the Reflecting Pool at the National Mall in Washingon, D.C. The shoes will “represent the 400,000 people who have been killed by the [situation] in Darfur,” said Wayne Elsey, CEO and founder of Soles4Souls. “The image will [leave an impact] because people aren’t aware of what’s going on in Darfur.”

Former Heavyweight Champion Riddick Bowe and Miss Africa USA Nyasha Zimucha are scheduled to attending the fundraiser, which will run from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

After the event, the shoes will be donated to individuals in the U.S. “Fifty-five percent of what we get is given away in the U.S. and the rest [is distributed] abroad,” Elsey said.

Soles4Souls will also hold a fundraiser at the Canadian Tulip Festival, held from May 1-18 in Ottawa. Visitors to the festival can donate gently used shoes to drop-off locations. Guests and others who want to help can also purchase or donate a pair of Tulip Festival/Soles4Souls co-branded flip-flops for $10. “We want this festival to become the Sundance Film Festival for shoe designers,” Elsey said.

During the Canadian Tulip Festival, International Shoes & Champagne will feature a public showcase of footwear from more than 70 international designers, supporting Soles4Souls donations to families overseas. The benefit gala will be held May 8 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. in the historic Union Station, now the Government Conference Centre. The event will feature both a live and silent auction offering celebrity-signed shoes and cruise vacations, among other items. Tickets to the gala are $50.

On May 9, the free exhibition is open to the public at the same location. Special guest Beth Harbison, author of “Shoe Addicts Anonymous” and “Secret of a Shoe Addict,” will be on hand for a book signing.

Despite the down economy, Elsey said Soles4Souls’ donations have been up by about 30 percent. “The difference between us and other footwear charities is that we are expanding our business model,” he said. “We used to receive only donations from the footwear industry. Now we accept individual donations. We have schools, churches and clubs around the country donating shoes to our charity.”

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