Amanda DeVeaux discovered the power to help save children’s lives in a place she never expected to find it: a pair of shoes.
A communications major at Saginaw Valley State University, DeVeaux is the president of a campus club that advocates for a unique footwear company called TOMS Shoes. For every pair of shoes a customer buys from TOMS, the company gives a pair to a child in need. That gift can then spare a child from a range of debilitating diseases and, in many cases, give that child a chance to attend school.
The 22-year-old Clinton Township native now has the goal of getting the SVSU community to buy – and therefore give – 1,000 pairs of shoes. To kick off the campaign, DeVeaux arranged for company founder and “chief shoe giver” Blake Mycoskie to visit campus Monday, March 15 for a students-only presentation.
DeVeaux has had quite the TOMS story herself. A year ago, DeVeaux had been on a service trip to the Dominican Republic, when she noticed a striking pair of shoes on her friend’s feet and asked him about them. When she arrived home, she went online to learn about the company. She applied and was chosen to be a campus representative for the organization.
Later, DeVeaux would be selected as one of 30 customers to go on a shoe drop – where TOMS shoes are delivered to people in need. She traveled to New Orleans last August.
“They really do give the shoes,” she said. “They let their customers be a part of the giving, go on a shoe drop and place the shoes on the kids’ feet by hand.”
During her trip, the group gave shoes to more than 2,000 children.
DeVeaux’ advocacy hasn’t stopped there. On Labor Day 2009, she and her friends joined the thousands that walk the Mackinac Bridge, but she made the trek barefoot, sharing the mission of TOMS Shoes with anyone who asked.
“It was just a really humbling experience. The whole time we were thinking about the kids and what they have to go through. And it wasn’t even hard for us, because it was just smooth pavement.”
Now, she plans to raise that awareness even further. And that goal has brought her to her latest plan. In October 2009, she saw on the organization’s Facebook page that Mycoskie was planning a college speaking tour. She contacted the company, asking how to arrange for Mycoskie to visit SVSU. She was told to ask her school’s administration to send a request.
But DeVeaux decided to just write it herself.
“I told them about the other programs on campus and how we’re so dedicated to a good cause,” DeVeaux said, “whether it’s Battle of the Valleys, or Alternative Breaks, or Relay for Life. I know everybody would love TOMS – they just need to hear about it.”
The agency responded, saying that all she needed was the funding. She went to Merry Jo Brandimore, dean of student affairs, and asked her if there was any way they could host Mycoskie.
A number of campus groups enthusiastically agreed to support it, including Program Board, the Residence Housing Association, Student Life, the National Residence Hall Honorary, the Student Association and the College of Business and Management.
As a result, Mycoskie spoke to nearly 500 on Monday, March 15.
“I can tell you my TOMS story,” DeVeaux said. “I can go on and on about my story. But now, we’re going to reach out to everyone on campus so everyone gets to start their story, too.”
Anyone who would like to support DeVeaux and her mission can buy a pair of TOMS shoes online at www.tomsshoes.com. At the checkout page, anyone who uses the promo code “CAMPUSSVSU” before Monday, May 31 will earn $5 off and count the purchase toward SVSU’s 1,000-pair goal.
To learn more about TOMS, visit its Web site at www.tomsshoes.com.