A handful of the London police’s school resource officers are spending Tuesday delivering more than 80 pairs of running shoes to kids in need across the city.
The initiative is dubbed Project Santa’s Sneakers and is an extension of the service’s Project Santa, which happens in the lead-up to the winter holidays each year.
“We recognized this need is all year round, not just at Christmastime,” said Const. Anthea Fordyce, one of the service’s secondary school resource officers.
With the help of some advocacy and a “significant” financial contribution from St. Peter’s Basilica to the Santa Project, Fordyce was able to reach out to Under Armour and buy $3,000 worth of sneakers at a discounted price.
“We really encourage kids to be outdoors, playing sports, being part of a team, and how can they do that without proper footwear?” she said.
Fordyce, with the help of fellow constables Evan Harrison and Rebecca Elliott, brought the brightly coloured athletic kicks to more than a dozen London schools. Fordyce said they rely on school staff members to identify kids in need.
“They will identify families that struggle to provide, whether it’s warm clothing or running shoes … they hand out the items to the kids that need them and they try to prioritize as best they can,” she said.
For example, the family of one of the students being prioritized recently lost their home in a fire, said Fordyce.
“As a secondary school resource officer, we’re at the schools every day of the week. We become very close with our school communities and work so well with our administrators that we really get to see, and are privy to a lot of need that’s in that school community,” she said.
“We’re there to deliver messages about Criminal Code, peer pressure and drugs and alcohol and all these other topics, but it goes beyond that.”
She added: “You see a kid that doesn’t have a winter coat or winter boots, we have a duty of care to do something about that.”
Project Santa’s Sneakers is a first-time initiative for London police. Part of the donation from St. Peter’s Basilica will go on to help sustain Project Santa during the upcoming winter season.
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