Connie and Rick Vaillancourt moved to Fall River from Minnesota and brought a little piece of the North Star state with them: a program that provides at-risk elementary school kids with a brand new pair of sneakers.

In Fall River, where the poverty rates are some of the highest in the state, kids oftentimes wear shoes that have been passed down from sibling to sibling and for many of them, having a new pair of shoes of their own is not the norm. With the support of their fellow Rotarians from the Rotary Club of Fall River, the Happy Feet Program has put new shoes and socks on the feet of more than 1,250 Fall River children.

“For most people, sneakers, and socks are a given, Children get new ones when they outgrow the old ones, but for our families, sneakers are a luxury. Often children wear sneakers that do not fit or are old and holey. Often these children are singled out in physical education class because they do not have appropriate sneakers for the activities. ...   

I always mention the high school boy who was living with his family in a shelter. They could not afford new sneakers and he was told that without sneakers that fit him, he could not participate in afterschool track. Enter the Fall River Rotary Club to the rescue! They provided the necessary socks and sneakers and the child went on to compete regionally representing his school.”  - Wendy Garf Lipp, United Neighbors of Fall River; Happy Feet program recipient.

What makes this program so special is that all of the shoes are purchased specifically for their recipient, ensuring that no child is given a pair of sneakers that fits incorrectly.

Over the past several years, Rick and Connie have worked closely with the local Payless Shoe Stores to purchase the new shoes at a discounted or special promotional price throughout the year.  With Payless Shoe Stores closing earlier this year, the group says they will likely use their entire budget buying shoes while also reducing the number of children they are able to help in the 2019-20 school year.

If you want to get involved and help Rick and Connie continue keeping kids’ feet happy, you can get involved by contacting the Fall River Rotary Club or by making a donation here.