University of Akron graduate student Micklos Blake is all about reaching back to help others out of poverty, using the when-you-have-more-you-do-more philosophy. His one-year-old FreshSouls is a nonprofit campaign that collects and distributes new and gently worn shoes to youth living in low-income areas in Akron and worldwide.
“A native of Jamaica who moved to New York City when he was 9, Blake understands that not having a simple item like shoes — which many take for granted — is a huge obstacle to a child’s success,” wrote Laura Martinez Massie, director of media relations, office of university communications and marketing at UA. “So, for this holiday season and for as long as it takes, Blake is giving back to children who are less fortunate through not only collecting and donating hundreds of pairs of much-needed shoes, but also taking time to mentor and encourage local youngsters to aim high in life.”
Blake is a former Zips football player who has recruited several UA student-athletes for his mission. His team distributed more than 1,000 pairs of shoes and school supplies in his native Jamaica in July. “Blake himself recalls the dirt, rusty nails and glass splinters that cut and bruised his feet as a child walking barefoot outdoors every day in his native country,” Massie continued.
Blake has a bachelor’s degree in business and organizational communication, and will receive a master’s degree this month in sports administration. He’s a graduate assistant in UA’s athletic department.
“In February 2014, Blake and FreshSouls team members Rosheeda Bryant and Tiarrah Kent will travel to Mexico to continue the work they started in Jamaica and also in Akron, where the organization recently donated 30 pairs of athletic shoes and other equipment to football players at Akron East High School,” Massie added.
Blake and members of UA’s football team also volunteer as tutors/mentors each Thursday at Akron’s Leggett Community Learning Center.
Polar Express campaign
It’s that time of the year when Santa’s elves are busy loading up his sleigh.
It’s also the time that volunteer extraordinaire Janet Shively and all of her elf helpers are loading up their gifts for delivery this weekend.
Shively, for several years now, has been supplying riders on a special trip on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad’s Polar Express with colorful, kid-friendly and huggable fleece blankets, scarves and mittens.
Some of these children are seriously ill, some have a parent in the military serving in harm’s way or just returning home, and this year some are developmentally disabled clients from Hattie Larlham. They ride free, along with siblings, parents or guardians, courtesy of the fundraising effort launched by retired Akron Police Sgt. Tom Dye.
Project Comfort 77 is what Shively calls her campaign, which also provides blankets to Summit County Sheriff’s cruisers to give to children in distress.
So, a huge community hug for Ev Wolfe, Wilma Hardman, Cindi Gran, Cissie Elberson, Jane Briner, and Pat Janero. “They come from Uniontown, Fairlawn, Cuyahoga Falls, Canton and Akron to see that these children enjoy a very unique Christmas on the Polar Express,” Shively said.
And there are the donors that pay for the fabric: Sue and Bruce Coe, Tammie Turnbaugh, Holy Family Church, Cissie Elberson, Ameilia Casino, Amy McDonald, Patty Baraneck, Jean Taylor, Marie Ricks, Wilma Hardman, Kathie Patoni, Sue Hanna and Ev Wolfe.
I also owe a huge debt of gratitude to Wadsworth’s Jan Householder and her fiercely dedicated Giving Doll Ministry volunteers, who have again come through with more than 60 handmade soft-sculpture dolls for these excited passengers.
Sgt. Dye’s extraordinary effort makes this trip possible. Drum roll, please, for the donors: Akron Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 7 Akron FOP Auxiliary No. 1, Police and Firemen’s Insurance Association and UTI Medical Inc.
I thank them one and all.
Home for the holidays
Thanks to the efforts of Habitat for Humanity of Summit County in partnership with the City of Akron, Church of Our Savior, St. John’s Episcopal Church, FirstEnergy, JoAnn’s Craft Stores and Habitat Ohio and the Ohio Home Trust, Akron’s Brittany Houston and her three children — ages 13, 10 and 2 — will have a home for the holidays.
The home on Royal Place — which required the homeowner to work on the house, along with the other volunteer builders — will be dedicated Sunday.
Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit, ecumenical, international Christian housing ministry. For more information, please call 330-745-7734 or visit www.hfhsummitcounty.org.
Thankful for tricycle
Terry Kyser, Springfield High School’s cheerleading adviser, is over-the-moon thankful to Lakemore Army/Navy Club’s recent purchase of a $1,500 adaptive Rifton tricycle for the school’s Sparkles special needs cheer team.
Last year, Kyser said, she made a car out of cardboard to fit over a team member’s adapted stroller so he had an important part in the Greased Lightning routine. “But this year we are going to be able to allow our little (soon-to-be 10-year-old) Joey Ricci to ride the adapted tricycle out onto the performance floor [to Footloose] … The trike has a special adapted bar on it for other cheerleaders to actually help with steering the bike but the pedaling is all up to him.
“We are so very excited about this and we are also going to allow the students who receive special education to utilize it as well.
“Once we presented the trike, Joey walked over to it immediately,” Kyser continued. “We positioned him on the trike and away he went!”
Jewell Cardwell can be reached at 330-996-3567 or firstname.lastname@example.org