Brainsport’s gently used shoe program addresses community need

Roughly 1,500 pairs of gently used shoes found new feet last month at the Saskatoon Tribal Council’s annual back-to-school carnival.

Previous iterations of the event have featured a backpack and school supply giveaway. This year, shoes were also up for grabs — courtesy of Brainsport.

Brainsport runs an ongoing gently used shoe program that collects shoes from across the province and distributes them to people who can use them. In the past, the store has hosted shoe donation events at King George School, St. Mary’s School, Princess Alexandra School and the Saskatoon Food Bank. Shoes have been sent to running camps in Kenya and donated locally to track clubs, forest fire evacuees, new Canadians and people who are incarcerated.

“There is definitely a need in our local community and we make a strong effort to distribute the shoes right here in Saskatoon,” says Brainsport employee Ian Klassen, who spearheaded the shoe giveaway at the back-to-school carnival.

Sometimes Brainsport’s shoe giveaways involve employees helping to fit shoes. Other times, like at the carnival, staff simply allow people to help themselves and choose the footwear they need.

“This often allows for more people to get shoes, and more shoes to find happy feet,” Klassen said.

Preparation for the event involves more than simply lugging bags of shoes to where they’re needed. Klassen said volunteers spent several hours cleaning and organizing shoes before they were given away.

The event itself was “busy, but a lot of fun,” Klassen said.

“We were welcomed with open arms and big smiles. Kids have a way of showing their appreciation and excitement without always using words. Though some did thank us, it was the sheer joy in their faces and big grins that truly showed how much they appreciated it.”

One of Klassen’s most memorable moments was when a young boy came up to a table Klassen had stacked with soccer cleats. Klassen said the boy and his father were thrilled when they realized they could take the shoes .

“His smile lit up the street. He then ran and told his siblings. They all came running over for their own pair of soccer cleats,” Klassen recalled.

Another moment that stands out is a talk he had with a woman who approached the Brainsport booth to tell Klassen that someone from Brainsport had given her a pair of shoes a few years ago. Having a pair of shoes that fit her allowed her to move and be active again.

“This is why the shoe program exists,” Klassen said. “I truly believe that we aren’t just fitting shoes at Brainsport. The shoes are just a gateway to build relationships and impact lives. And that’s what matters. People matter. Regardless of their stories, or where they might be in life, they are people and they matter.”