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