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A teenager living with a rare form of gigantism will start the school year off with some new shoes – thanks to the kindness of strangers who first heard his plight on Indianapolis’ WXIN-TV.
Shoes had become a source of stress for Dakota Deal, 13, and his family. His condition has caused his feet to grow to a size 20 – only three sizes smaller than basketball star, Shaquille O’Neal’s famous feet.
“They’re just hard to find,” said Dakota’s sister, Brandy Ellinger. “When we do find them, they last for three or four months and he just goes through them fast.”
Gigantism, also known as acromegaly in adults, is a hormonal disorder that develops when the pituitary gland produces too much growth hormone your bones increase in size, including those of the hands, feet and face, according to the Mayo Clinic. In children, this can cause exaggerated bone growth and an abnormal increase in height.
Decatur Township Schools, where Dakota is in 8th grade made some changes to help accommodate Dakota’s large stature when teachers realized he couldn’t fit his legs under the desk and keyboards were too small for his hands. But Dakota told the station fitting in with his classmates has been challenging at times.
“(Kids) would say a rude comment like, ‘Hey big foot,’ and I wouldn’t like it,” Dakota said.
So Ellinger reached out to reporter Jill Glavan at the local TV station for help. Within two weeks of airing his story, shoes started coming in from all over the country.
From an anonymous donor in Texas, to a WNBA player in Connecticut who called in a favor to Under Armour, to those right in Dakota’s own community. Even former Pacer’s player, Rick Smits sent a pair of shoes.
Isaac Haas, a Purdue basketball player donated a pair of shoes telling WXIN that he sympathized with Dakota’s struggle to find his size. And Dakota scored his first pair of “designer” shoes when a family sent a pair of size 22 Nikes.
“I would like to say thanks to the people that gave me these,” Deal said. “I actually do feel like a celebrity.”