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Elementary students slip on brand new shoes thanks to local charity

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Monday was one of the most important days of the year at Weller Elementary.  That is why 357 of the school's 358 students were there.  Every student present received a brand new pair of socks and Converse sneakers.

Kindergartners were up first.  Five-year-old Peyton Vanscoy could hardly wait for his chance.

"'Cause I only have one pair," he said.

The hundreds of pairs of shoes handed out on Monday were just part of the overall project.

"It's called One Sole Purpose.  We provide shoes for children in Title I elementaries here in Springfield," said Gayla Wells, founder of the group.

The goal is to provide shoes to students at all 17 Title I elementary schools each year.  This year the group raised just enough for students at seven of those schools.

"Sometimes they come, and they've got shoes that are too small for them or don't have very good soles in them," said Weller principal Marilyn Monroe.

Ninety percent of Weller kids qualify for free and reduced lunches.  Monroe said meeting practical needs of students makes a huge difference in the learning process.

Students' initials are penned inside their new sneaks.  Judging by their smiles, the sense of pride they feel is going to last a while.

"My mom will think I'm cute," Peyton said.

The principal says most of her students will wear their new shoes for the rest of the school year.  They cost $26 per pair and were paid for with donations from churches, including High Street Baptist, a congregation that sponsors Weller.  Other churches, businesses, and individuals made contributions as well.

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