A Size 17 Cinderella Story

September 4, 2020

In the tale of “Cinderella,” a prince goes looking for the woman whose foot fits the shoe. For 17-year-old Jeremy* at Family Promise of Greater Washington County, OR, it was all about finding the shoe to fit the foot.

Jeremy had one pair of sneakers, and they were so worn that he’d wrapped them in tape to hold them together. As inconvenient as that may have been, circumstances dictated that new shoes were at the bottom of his family’s list of priorities: they had lost their home and were more concerned about where they’d spend the night. Fortunately, they found Family Promise of Greater Washington County, OR.

In addition to providing shelter and stabilization support to the family, Family Promise wanted to help Jeremy replace his old sneakers. The problem was, he wore a size 17 shoe, a difficult size to find.

“We live in Nike-land,” says Lois O’Halloran, the Affiliate’s board chair, alluding to the fact that Beaverton is the home of Nike’s headquarters. “But even so, it’s impossible to find shoes in that size!”

Nike is famous for its sneakers. It supplies footwear to many professional athletes, including the NBA. Yet even within the NBA, where large feet aren’t uncommon, the average shoe size is only 13.

But O’Halloran had a lightbulb moment.

She knew that NBA players only wore their shoes for a few games before they were retired, though for the average person the shoes would still be considered new. She reached out to the Nike division that works with the NBA – the Nike Jordan Team – wondering if they could find any players in the league who wore a size 17 shoe. The Nike Jordan Team shared Jeremy’s story with several NBA teams and eventually found a player who was happy to donate his shoes.

Jeremey’s mother answered the door the day O’Halloran delivered the box of shoes, which had the NBA player’s name on it. O’Halloran considers the moment one of the highlights of her time at Family Promise.

“This mom has had so many barriers and tough knocks in life,” she explains. “She was so overwhelmed and surprised. It’s a moment that will live with me forever.”

O’Halloran saw Jeremy wearing the shoes the very next day.

“What a beaming smile!” she recalls.

Although the family was close to moving into an apartment last spring, the COVID-19 crisis delayed their plans. While still in the Family Promise shelter program, Jeremy has been active in the restoration and rebuilding of grass space and gardens at the day center, even helping plant flowers, fruits, and vegetables.

“It’s such a joy to see his growth,” O’Halloran remarks. “All while proudly wearing his new shoes.”

*name changed to protect privacy
Editor’s note:
Due to contract legalities between the NBA and Nike, the basketball team and player must remain anonymous in this story. As O’Halloran notes, the shoe donation was not an official NBA-Nike community event, but simply “good people doing good things,” inspired by the work of Family Promise.

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