One by one, students from Buffalo Jones Elementary walked down the hall and turned the corner to the front lobby of the school, where they saw four Garden City Community College football players staring down at them.
A look of puzzlement soon turned to excitement, though, when the players — Charles West, Lacolby Tucker, Rayshawn Wilborn and Deric Rucker — handed them a brand new pair of Adidas shoes Wednesday afternoon.
“It made me happy,” 6-year-old Erik Ramirez said.
Ramirez was one of 30 students identified by the district as underprivileged and potentially in need of gym shoes when GCCC head football coach Jeff Sims asked the district about giving kids 30 free shoes in a partnership with Adidas.
The apparel company reached out to Sims after the Busters won the 2016 national championship, and Sims brought up the idea of giving kids shoes. He said he had seen East Carolina University doing the same in an article, and thought GCCC could do the same.
He offered to buy the shoes from Adidas, he said, but the company said they would donate them. He then contacted USD 457, and the district identified Buffalo Jones students of need.
A little more than 90 percent of Buffalo Jones’ students are economically disadvantaged, according to the Kansas State Department of Education 2016-17 report card.
“There’s a great need for us,” Buffalo Jones principal Maria Solis said Wednesday. “I know some of (the students) were holding themselves from crying. There was one little girl that touched my heart right away, because I could tell she wanted to cry, but she held herself together. It was important. It was meaningful.”
Ramirez, and his friend Kevin Ramirez, no relation, both said they would use the shoes to play dodge ball during physical education class.
“I think it’s awesome to see (the GCCC players give back), especially when they can help with children,” Sims said. “Our guys aren’t that far removed from that age. They have little brothers and sisters.
“A lot of our guys are coming from a similar situation, where they’re first generation college students, trying to make a life for themselves.”
After handing out the shoes, and helping some of the students immediately put them on, the Buster players, Sims and the rest of the coaching staff thanked Solis and the school, and then left to go back to campus. If they passed by the playground, they might have seen one of the brand new pair of shoes being used to climb the jungle gym.