Kind Soles: Kindergartners Pair Children in Foster Care with Shoes

August 28, 2019

It’s 8:30 on a sunny Wednesday morning in late May, and 40 Collegiate School kindergartners are buzzing about their classroom in anticipation of an end-of-year field trip to Maymont. But before heading off to explore the 100-acre historic Richmond estate, the students get a visit from a familiar and friendly face.

“Hello!” exclaims UMFS Volunteer Coordinator Kate Ockerman as she enters the room. “I’m so glad to see you all again.” Kate smiles wide as excited boys and girls rush to give her hugs before they plop down cross-legged on the carpet.

It’s the third time in five months Kate has had the pleasure of meeting with these philanthropic 5 and 6-year-olds, who have twice supported UMFS through fundraising projects. “It’s been amazing to see,” Kate said. “They’ve donated over $1,000 this school year for children and teens in foster care across Virginia to buy new shoes.”

What began as a student service project has blossomed into an ongoing partnership. Earlier in the school year, Collegiate School teachers Beth Anne Shelly and Elizabeth Andrews tasked their kindergartners with organizing a student-run shoe store. Mrs. Shelly enlisted the help of Saxon Shoes in Short Pump to coach the students on how to run a successful business. “The students then began collecting gently used shoes from the community,” Mrs. Shelly said. “They saw the shoes coming in and they counted, sorted, and kept a graph out in the hallway.”

In February, the students opened their shoe store and raised nearly $500 for children in foster care to purchase shoes. It was the second consecutive school year Collegiate School kindergartners chose UMFS as the beneficiary of their service project. “We’ve been blown away by their generosity,” Kate said.

But this year’s generosity extended well beyond the shoe store. Mrs. Shelly applauded Saxon Shoes for inviting the kindergartners to work as salespeople during the store’s Shop for a Cause fundraising event in early May. “They generously offered to donate $5 to UMFS for every pair of shoes the students sold,” Mrs. Shelly said. The kindergartners logged more than 100 sales.

Saxon Shoes President and CEO Gary Weiner said collaborating with the Collegiate School kindergartners to support UMFS has been a joy. “What a great example of young people doing good things,” he said. Gary also commended the leadership of Mrs. Shelly, who coincidentally had taught Gary’s now-adult children in Henrico County prior to becoming a teacher at Collegiate School some 22 years ago. “Beth Anne is teaching those students about business and life, and more importantly they’re supporting a good cause.”

Mrs. Shelly said of all the service projects she’s been a part of, this is the one in which students have been most engaged. “They’ve been totally connected,” she said. “We’re always looking for a way to help the 5 and 6-year-old brain understand about giving to someone else.”

And these young students most certainly do understand, as one soft-spoken kindergartner so eloquently summarized. “It’s like the Golden Rule,” she said, prompting her classmates to respond in unison song.

Do unto to others, Sisters and Brothers,
As you would have them do unto you.
And if you know it, then you can show it.
This is the Golden Rule.


If you’d like to follow in the footsteps of Collegiate School kindergartners and support children in foster care, visit