INDIANAPOLIS – A basketball coach went barefoot during a game to raise awareness for needy children in Africa and generated donations of more than 100,000 pairs of shoes for impoverished children.
Ron Hunter, coach at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, exceeded his goal of collecting 40,000 pairs in honor of the 40th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He coached Thursday night's game against Oakland University without shoes, and some in attendance also went barefoot.
"When we started this I thought 40,000 was going to be tough," he said. "When they told me before the game we already had 100,000, honestly, I almost broke down in tears."
Nearly $20,000 and 110,000 pairs of shoes were donated to the Charlotte, N.C., charitable organization called Samaritan's Feet. They will be given to children in the U.S. and around the world, according to the organization's Web site.
Hunter, 43, who almost never sits when coaching games, didn't have his feet stepped on, but they were still sore.
"My feet hurt so bad," he said after the game. "But imagine a child or a human going their whole lives without shoes."
The coach appeared on several ESPN shows on Thursday, and secured donations of thousands of shoes from Converse, Wal-Mart, Nine West and the Department of Homeland Security.
The mission of the nonprofit, Christian-based Samaritan charity is to send 10 million shoes in 10 years to children living in poverty.
"Imagine if every coach would pick a game to coach barefoot and use their influence," said Emmanuel "Manny" Ohonme, a native of Nigeria who founded the charity four years ago. "We'd exceed our goals pretty quickly."
Several of Hunter's players have said they will join him on a summer trip to Cameroon, home to Jaguars freshman guard Christian Siakam. In Siakam's family, shoes are a luxury.
IUPUI beat Oakland 82-69.