Families get leg up from boot program

The Boots for Kids program will outfit about 600 Chilliwack students with winter footwear this year.

The Boots for Kids program hopes to outfit about 600 students with winter footwear in Chilliwack this year.

Jessica Peters

The Progress

Having no winter boots can turn a delightful snowy day into a downright miserable one in the blink of an eye. Frozen toes, soggy socks, and drenched pant legs can put a damper on winter fun, make walking to school unbearable, and even keep a teen from earning a bit of cash shoveling snow.

These are very real problems that face at least 600 students in Chilliwack as winter sets in. For many families, putting out the money for new winter boots could mean not filling the cupboards, turning on the heat or putting gas in the car.

But that’s a choice many families won’t have to make this year. Murray Chilliwack has teamed up with a few key sponsors to spearhead a Boots for Kids program that will outfit about 600 students with winter footwear. The retail value of the boots totals about $30,000 — taking enormous pressure off local families when they need the help the most.

Murray Chilliwack partnered with Chances Casino Chilliwack and the Star FM Kindness Crew to purchase the boots through the Chilliwack Canadian Tire, at a generous discount. Other sponsors include CarStar Chilliwack, Gente Bella Salon, The Art of Driving School and Doug’s Locksmith, along with a handful of others.

It’s been a massive undertaking, with the bulk of the program managed by Murray Chilliwack’s Justin Mallard.

“We are trying to fill a need and help those who need it the most,” he said. Last winter they delivered 400 coats to local kids, and in the fall they outfitted 1,000 students with backpacks filled to the brim with school supplies.

When they asked the school district what was sorely needed this winter, boots were top of everyone’s mind. Each school identified students needing winter footwear, found out their sizes, and reported back to district staff. The list of those needing footwear included students in each of the district’s 30-plus schools, from kindergarten all the way to Grade 12.

While some schools requested more help, others only needed a little. But there is a need across the board, Mallard said. He was given a list from each school showing only shoe sizes and genders.

This week he will receive the shipment at Canadian Tire, sort through the sea of boxes, and work with a team of volunteers to deliver the boots to each school. The entire process should take about three days, Mellard said, and the race is on to get the job done before school lets out on Friday.

Both Mallard and Bosch are fathers, and neither one is comfortable knowing there are children in this city without proper boots and shoes.

“We’re just trying to help,” Bosch said. “We’ve got the vehicles to move (donation) around, delivering the boots to the schools. The best part of the program is when you get to deliver these to the schools.”

In the last 12 months, the dealership’s efforts and help from their sponsors has put almost $100,000 worth of clothing and supplies into the hands of Chilliwack’s parents. They never hear the kids’ names. They don’t get to see them try on their new boots, or pull on a brand new backpack. But they have heard the stories, through school administrators and teachers.

“We’ve heard of kids breaking down in tears,” Mallard said. “Some of these kids have never had a new coat or pair of boots. We all go through life’s ups and downs and to be able to help a family that is experiencing one of life’s downs is such a special gift to us.”

To ensure the kids enjoy and use their new clothing, Bosch notes that nothing is marked with business logos. Most of the kids will never know where their new clothing came from.

And that’s exactly how Murray Chilliwack wants the program to work.

“We don’t do this for recognition from the parents and student, it is truly done because it is what’s needed locally here in our community,” Mallard said.

jpeters@theprogress.com