Ten-year-old begins a shoe charity
Lilianna Gonzalez watched attentively as images of children living in poverty filled the television screen. She observed as the program talked about the needs of the children, the lack of amenities and resources, the challenges they faced every day. As she watched, though, what stood out the most to the ten-year-old was each child’s lack of shoes. Every child walked around barefoot. When the program ended and the credits finally began to scroll across the screen, Lilianna turned to her mother.
“I told my mom that I wanted shoes for kids instead of birthday presents,” explains Lilianna, who attends Dell Pickett Elementary and spends her free time dancing at Arts Avenue for Kids. “My parents accepted the idea and were really proud of me. My mom found out that our church, Main Street Baptist, was taking a trip to an orphanage in Matamoros, Mexico. [I asked] people at my birthday party to bring shoes instead of presents [for] the children living in the orphanage. My friends were all happy with my idea, and they all brought shoes.”
Friends and family alike have supported Lilianna and sought to help her realize her dream of helping other children in need. “I spoke with one of the coordinators of the trip and [learned] that the orphanage has more boys than girls,” explains Ericka Gonzalez, Lilianna’s mother. “So, we asked for both boys’ and girls’ shoes but mostly for shoes for boys between the ages of four and eighteen. Her grandparents helped to buy shoes, and we often receive coupons from Kohls and find shoes on clearance, which makes it extremely affordable.” Ericka adds with a laugh, “We had quite the stockpile going even before her birthday party.”
Lilianna made her first collection of shoes early in 2013. Over the summer, a volunteer group from Main Street Baptist Church helped to transport these shoes to the children living in the orphanage in Matamoros, Mexico. The fifth-grader plans to collect more shoes and send them to Mexico with future volunteer groups. “I will do this every year for my birthday, and at Christmastime I’ll add shoes for children in need to my Christmas list,” Lilianna says. “It is important to help other people, even though you don’t know them, because they need help. I hope I have changed other people’s lives.”