OCEANSIDE, Calif. World Emergency Relief, a local ministry that augments its emergency response efforts with service projects for the U.S. military, orchestrated the donation of Croc shoes for every elementary school student at Camp Pendleton.
The distribution was made June 8.
"At first it was hard to believe," Mary Fay Pendleton School Principal Lynne Gilstrap said. "You mean a company that doesn't have any connection to our school wants to help our children? It is such a blessing and, as said, almost too good to be true."
The on-base school serves 800 students in kindergarten through the sixth grade. Most have a parent who has been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan at least once, although some have served three or more times.
The two-decade-old organization arranged for the Croc shoe company to donate to the young military dependents. The gift was arranged to help ease the financial burden for military families. Those stationed in California can have a difficult time surviving because of the high cost of living. The relief group recently merged with Rescue Task Force, which provides toiletry and gift backpacks to injured soldiers returning stateside for treatment.
"The reality is that bills must be paid before children can get things like new clothes, shoes, backpacks," a news release from the group read.
Gilstrap said parents have been overwhelmed by the gesture, with many sending thank-you notes.
"As we end our school year, I cannot think of a better send off to our children than to have each and every one of them walk off the campus in their brand-new Crocs shoes," she said.
Peggy Reiber, a retired Marine who serves as executive officer for the relief ministry, said she was pleased with the generosity of the shoe company.
"As we remember our military who gave so much, we truly appreciate that Crocs Inc. is willing to help us to help some unsung heroes we do not hear much aboutthe children of deploying Marines," she said.
The gift, the principal added, complements ongoing measures to provide support for the school-age children.
"The children at our school are truly heroes," the principal said. "They know that their parents are supporting the fight against terrorism and know that it is Mom or Dad's job to go where they are needed."
"As a school, we do whatever we can to support our children and their families. We offer family night dinners, assemblies for the whole family, festivals, dances … any and everything we can do to make life easier and more enjoyable for our families. There is an incredible sense of pride at our school. The children are proud of their parents, and we are proud of our children and their families."