Children get ‘summer kicks’ in shoe-giving initiative by CHA and Operation Warm

·2 min read

As Jazariyah, 9, ate her ice cream and held her new shoes, she wanted to clarify that even though she said Friday was the best day of her life, she meant this was “probably, maybe” the best day.

“You can’t never say it’s the best day of your life because something might rain on your parade,” she explained. But she was looking forward to using her black running shoes in the park. They would be comfortable, unlike the pair she already had on, which made her feet cramp.

Jazariyah and her sister, Jaziah, also 9, were among around 75 children at the “Summer Kicks” event held on Friday at Fosco Park Fieldhouse on the Near West Side, where new tennis shoes were distributed by the Chicago Housing Authority in partnership with the Chicago Park District and national nonprofit Operation Warm.

In addition to providing parents with the basics for growing children, said CHA Chief Executive Officer Tracey Scott, the main goal was to give children the feeling of “getting something new for themselves.” Although this is the program’s first official year, Scott said she hopes to see this become a yearly summer event.

CHA has partnered with Operation Warm in the past, but this is the first time the nonprofit has moved out of the winter months, after receiving suggestions from its beneficiaries about the need for summer shoes among children. After a pilot for the program last year, the organization has started summer activities, giving new shoes to children ages 3 to 10. The goal is for this to become an ongoing initiative, said Operation Warm’s Partnership Director Rich Lalley.

The age cutoff for Friday was partly due to practical constraints, said Lalley, because they wanted to limit the number of sizes they handled. But, according to Lalley, they had also received feedback that as children get older, they become more “concerned about the logos on the side of their shoes,” he said. Operation Warm’s shoes aren’t branded. Since the pilot distribution last year, the organization has also changed the style of shoe distributed, from a slip-on to a lace-up tennis shoe that children could run around in.

Also present were workers from the MolinaCares Accord, which funded the event in collaboration with Molina Healthcare of Illinois. Representatives included Tanairi Coriano. For the 34-year-old who lives in the south suburbs, helping other families is important partly due to her own childhood living with parents who “struggled.” Coriano brought along her family to volunteer alongside her, and they handed out shoes to Jazariyah and her siblings, along with other children.

Jaziah was keen to provide some last words. “To all my TikTok fans, I love you all so much,” she said.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting