Popovich, Spurs Donate Shoes That Fit

Aaran, a kindergartener at Hirsch Elementary, stomped and jumped her way to Spurs coach Gregg Popovich while wearing her new blue shoes.

She was one of 200 students at the school to receive new sneakers through a donation by the Spurs and Popovich to the non-profit Shoes That Fit. Aaran looked up at Popovich and had a question for him. Her shoes light up, but why don’t his?

“I had a hard time explaining that my shoes aren’t as equipped as hers,” Popovich said. “It was fun to watch them all laugh and have a good time. I can still remember when you get a new pair of gym shoes when you’re a kid, it’s pretty exciting.”

Shoes That Fit has spent the past 24 years donating shoes and is the nation’s largest nonprofit provider of new athletic shoes to children in need. In 2015, Shoes That Fit delivered new shoes to 102,946 children in nearly 2,000 schools covering 45 states.

On Thursday, Popovich, Spurs guard Patty Mills and The Coyote joined in and spent the afternoon with the Hirsch students.

“It’s a great feeling because you know these times are the ones that impact the kids the most and impact us as players,” Mills said. “When you leave here and go on to do other things, these are the times you remember the most.”

Any Hirsch class rules about staying quiet or not running went ignored as the kids all tried on their new kicks.

Orin, a kindergartener, began running in circles in the back of the gym. He loves his new shoes because “they jump high,” Orin explained.

Dakota, a fifth-grader, began dancing as soon as he slipped on his new sneakers. He said his favorite thing about the shoes is that they’re red.

“I don’t like them, I love them,” said Robert, a fifth-grader, of his multi-colored basketball shoes. 

Of the Hirsch Elementary students, 94.6 percent are classified as economically disadvantaged, according to the Texas Education Agency. Hirsch staff identified students most in need, and every student was personally fitted for their shoes.

“Shoes are one of the most expensive things for families to buy,” said Shoes That Fit executive director Amy Fass. “A lot of kids are wearing hand-me-downs and haven’t had a new pair to call their own. When I contacted Pop, what he said was ‘I’m looking for any way to help.’”

In San Antonio, the fight against poverty is showing some progress. U.S. Census Bureau data released last week showed San Antonio’s poverty dropped from 16.7 percent in 2014 to 14.6 percent in 2015, the biggest decline in the country among the largest urban areas.

But San Antonio still has the nation’s highest rate of income inequality, meaning it has the widest gap between wealthy zip codes and impoverished ones.

“Getting a new pair of shoes is like therapy for these kids,” Hirsch Elementary principal Mary Rodriguez. “A day like this makes a big difference long-term, because the kids feel better. When that happens, they do better.”