Welcome to February of 2008 here at Sunrise Santa Cruz. We always like to start off the month with something that kicks ash and today will be no exception. This is the sunset from last Wednesday at Natural Bridges State Beach. It was cloudy day but around 4 pm I noticed an opening in the sky and I thought we might be in for some early evening exotica and I was not disappointed. The clouds were lined up in favorable position along the horizon to give us something special and nature came thru with a close to perfect score. The Russian judge gave it a 9.5. Shot #2 has the sun creating some unusual patterns in the sand while shot #4 gives you a pretty good idea of the colors that were on display this evening. All in all a pretty good night for us westsiders.
So much for the opening act, now here’s a feel good story for the week. IUPUI (Indiana) men’s basketball coach Ron Hunter coached a game last Thursday night against Oakland University dressed in a black shirt, cream-colored vest and slacks with no shoes, flip flops or Ugg boots. It was the most visible sign of his campaign to collect athletic shoes for children in need in Africa.
Coach Hunter started the drive a month ago after meeting Samaritan’s Feet Founder Emmanuel Ohonme. His original goal was to collect 30,000 pairs. After news of his endeavor started to spread and shoes starting coming in, he mentioned he might increase his goal to 40,000, in honor of the 40th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King. He also had a dream.
By tip-off last Thursday night, he had 110,000 pairs. A crowd of more than 1,000 people attended the game at the IUPUI Gymnasium-and some of the students showed up barefoot in support of Hunter. The school announced that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security had donated 10,000 pairs, Soles4Souls, a Nashville-based charity, donated 40,000 pairs, Wal-Mart gave 25,000, Nine West, a women’s shoe company offered another 5,200 and FEMA threw in a pair of slippers. Converse threw in 15,000 more pairs after Hunter appeared on ESPN radio.
“When we started this I thought 40,000 was going to be tough,” says Hunter. “When they told me before the game we already had 100,000, I almost broke down in tears.” I was going to go with a “96 Tears, Tears of a Clown, or Tears for Fears” joke but it didn’t seem appropriate.
Most of the shoes are being shipped to directly to Samaritan’s Feet, the non-profit group started four years ago by Ohonme, a Nigerian whose own goal is to get shoes to 10 million people in 10 years. “Imagine if every coach would pick a game to coach barefoot and use their influence. We’d exceed our goals pretty quickly, ” says Ohnonme. Spoken by a man whose sole runs deep.
Ron Hunter coached the Jaguars that night to a 82-69 victory. He doesn’t normally sit down during the games while wearing shoes and said afterwards, “My feet hurt so bad. But imagine a child or human going their whole lives without shoes.” Hunter and some of his players will be flying to Africa this summer to help distribute the shoes and says he would like to go specifically to Cameroon, which I believe is right next to Macaroon, the homeland of Jaguars freshman guard Christian Slakam.
This is a great story about someone who is using his influence to make a difference. Now all they need is 110,000 pairs of socks.
So that’s our kickoff for the month of February. Sit back and take in the grandeur and hype of Super Bowl Sunday. I just hope this contest is closer than the South Carolina Democratic Primary. Either way this game will be interesting as Bill Belichick’s Brady Bunch is trying make history by going undefeated (19-0) before being anointed as the greatest team of all time. All that stands in their way is Eli Manning and the New York Giants and 3,000 television commercials. So enjoy this hopefully great sports weekend and we’ll catch you for sunrise Monday. Aloha and we’re going to miss you, John Edwards. It just wasn’t your time.