As the back-to-school season approaches, Reebok has launched a new campaign that will allow families to purchase with purpose. From July 22-31, 2019 Reebok will run its Kids Footwear “Buy One, Give One” campaign benefitting BOKS kids in low-income schools.  For every kids shoe purchased on in the U.S. – Reebok will donate a pair of shoes to a BOKS child in need.

When the campaign closes, BOKS will evaluate the number of donations and distribute to its high-need schools. Please check back in September if you would like to submit your BOKS program to receive a shoe donation.

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Ahead of this campaign we caught up with Michelle Balch, the senior administrator of performance and evaluation at Springfield Public Schools to discuss the need for active footwear in high-need communities:

BOKS: Can you describe your job in Springfield?

MB: I am the Senior Administrator of Performance and Evaluation.  My primary job function is to oversee all Health, Physical Education, and Wellness curriculum, policies, and assessments for Springfield Public Schools.  I lead the Wellness Policy advisement and implementation as well as co-chair the District’s Wellness Advisory Committee.

BOKS: How did you first hear about the BOKS program and how does it work in Springfield? 

MB: I was introduced to the BOKS program through our state organization, MAHPERD, Massachusetts Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.  At one of our annual conventions the BOKS program was highlighted. We knew we needed to have BOKS in Springfield from not only this session but in reviewing the curriculum and programming components as well as learning about the impact BOKS has had on other like communities.

BOKS: BOKS Tell us about the kids who participate in the program, what impact does it have?

MB: Our students commit to the program at the start of the school year.  Some schools use the program as an incentive to increase attendance, other schools use the program to target students who may need the program for additional social-emotional supports.  It varies by school however the impact is the same.  The students actively participate in before and after school opportunities to increase physical activity and building the school culture.  The program also affords additional opportunities for the schools to engage parents, caregivers and community partners. 

BOKS:  Can you tell us about the community in Springfield in general, what are the needs of these families?

MB: Our district is an urban setting where 100% of our students receive free lunch (as well as breakfast).  Many of our students have limited opportunities to engage in play, physical activity, and before/after school programming.  Our students who participate in BOKS are more likely to arrive to school on time, have fewer absences, are more likely to make healthier meal choices, as well as a greater sense of belonging to the school community.  

BOKS: What are some of the barriers these kids face to being active and healthy?

MB: Students in Springfield may not have access to organized team sports; transportation has historically been an issue; as well as safe places where students are comfortable, confident, and willing to fully participate.  Parents schedules typically are not optimal for after school sports, intermural teams, and weekend programming.  We are also considered part of the food desert in Springfield.  There is limited access to healthy foods, grocery stores, and local produce growers.  While Springfield has made great strides in offering community members opportunities for access, the problem does still persist. 

BOKS: What would new shoes mean for the kids in your community?

MB: Shoes are not just about safety, style or protection.  Shoes are a vehicle, both mentally and physically, to promote a healthier lifestyle.  Shoes offer students access to opportunities and a healthier lifestyle.  If a child has worn ill-fitting shoes, the pain, the limitations could prevent them from moving, being active and impede their confidence. 

BOKS: What would you say to someone thinking about doing their back to school shopping that will trigger a donation?

This valuable donation will not only be a confidence booster, but it has the ability to bring joy, fitness, and movement to children.  When you provide a pair of shoes to a student in need, you are giving them the gift of wellness, transportation and transformation.