I Am Local 6: Kiwanians buy new shoes for preschoolers

MCCRACKEN COUNTY, Ky. — It’s a gift for the feet, that touches the heart. The South and Downtown Paducah Kiwanis Clubs partner together every year to buy shoes for local preschoolers. We found them this week with Santa at Heath Elementary. The shoes are a tangible gift, but it’s the lesson behind them that makes these local Kiwanis Clubs this week’s I Am Local 6.

Santa looks on as excited preschoolers at Health Elementary open up their new shoes from the South and Downtown Paducah Kiwanis Clubs.

“Do you have presents?” asked a Heath Elementary preschooler of Santa on Tuesday morning.

“I have presents,” he responded. “Merry Christmas, don’t open it yet!”

There was sweet anticipation, impressive patience, and finally sweet relief for the kids.

“They were pumped,” Heath Elementary Principal Laine Cooper told Local 6’s Chad Darnall.

Kaleigh Tucker (center) and several other Health Elementary students wait patiently to open their gifts.

“Pink Shoes! I can’t believe I got that!” exclaimed preschooler Kaleigh Tucker.

A preschooler shoes Santa the new sneakers she just opened.

“They light up in the dark,” another student explained of the pair he received.

“Oh my goodness,” Suzie Atherton with South Paducah Kiwanis said with a laugh. “My heart is just bursting.”

She never gets tired of this. Atherton has been in charge of helping coordinate getting preschoolers across Paducah and McCracken County schools shoes for several years.

“I’m just amazed that they are so excited when Santa gives them shoes instead of toys,” Atherton said.

With $7,000 to spend and more than 580 kids total to shop for, Kiwanians turn to Academy Sports to hook them up.

A Heath Elementary preschooler tries on her new pair of sneakers.

“These shoes retailed for $19.99, up to $29.99,” Atherton said. “They gave them to us for a discount.”

“It’s awesome for the community to partner together and, you know, change a kid’s life because of something small like shoes,” Principal Cooper said.

There’s a lesson here: there’s joy in giving.

Kaleigh hugs Santa and thanks him for her new shoes.

“Thank you Santa!” Kaleigh said, running into Santa’s arms for a hug.

“Oh, you’re very welcomes!” Santa replied.

“It’s near and dear to the Kiwanis heart,” Atherton said of the decades long program.

The money for the shoes comes from McCracken County Fair proceeds from ride tickets and admission. Atherton anticipates buying even more shoes next year.