America challenged to  'Go Barefoot' to provide shoes for needy

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Manny Ohonme plans to put his feet where his heart is—by going barefoot.

On Oct. 11, he will begin a 300-mile "barefoot walk" to raise awareness for the global mission of Samaritan's Feet, a ministry he founded to provide shoes for impoverished children. An estimated 300 million children worldwide do not have a single pair of shoes.

Ohonme was 9 years old and living in Lagos, Nigeria when a missionary, ministering in the stifling summer heat, presented the youngster with a pair of tennis shoes. The shoes allowed Ohonme to play basketball, ultimately earning an atheletic scholarship from an American University. In 2003, the Nigerian native left a lucrative career in the technology industry to Samaritan's Feet.

To date more than 750,000 pairs of shoes have been delivered to children in need in the United States, South Africa, Sudan, Ukraine, Haiti, Kenya, Ethiopia, Ecuador, Brazil, Nigeria, Peru, Guyana, Mexico and Malawi. Ohonme's goal is to collect 10 million pairs of shoes for children.

The outreach has grown to include medical supply resources for children affected with diseases—such as in Guatemala where ringworm and other infectious outbreaks are often a result of being barefoot in unsanitary living conditions.

For the two-week "World Walk" event Ohonme and others will go barefoot from Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte to Atlanta, ending the journey Oct. 26 at Atlanta's Motor Speedway.

As part of the send-off, NASCAR, a major supporter of the walk, will host a "Barefoot Breakfast" in conjunction with the Bank of America 500 Sprint Cup series and Speedway Children's Charities. The Nationwide Garage at Lowe's Motor Speedway will be the host site for the breakfast, which is expected to draw major names from the world of NASCAR, the NBA and the NFL. Guests will be asked to check their shoes at the door.

Pre-arranged shoe distribution points in South Africa, Haiti, Peru, Malawi, Nigeria and 25 other countries served by Samaritan's Feet are organized to simultaneously have thousands of participants join the walk in their own respective countries. They will time their walk for final leg, creating a global "simul-walk."

Organizers hope to collect at least 100,000 pairs of shoes and $500,000 in cash donations through the walk.

For more information, visit www.samaritansfeet.org.