Students at Osage School help collect shoes for Soles4Souls

Donate old shoes at Osage School on 112 Somerdale Road through April 13 for people in need all over the world.

At first, their expectations were not high. Students in Caitlin Peluszak’s class at Osage Elementary School predicted they would not collect a lot of shoes — at best, 20 pairs, and at worst, a measly four pairs.

On only the third day of running the Soles4Souls fundraiser, they were happily proven wrong. Sitting in the classroom were 18 bags and two boxes full of shoes, each containing at least four pairs.

“The students have done such a wonderful job with brainstorming ideas, and comprehending the idea we are fortunate in our area to have what we have,” Peluszak said.

Peluszak, a special education teacher, got the idea for her class to participate in the Soles4Souls organization when she noticed a lot of extra shoes in her house belonging to her four children.

Now, she is getting her class involved as actively as possible. Peluszak’s class is made up of five students in the first to third grade age range, with varying degrees of multiple disabilities. They are contributing to the project by counting, sorting and bundling the shoes.

Third grader Geeanna Beale helps bundle pairs of shoes together for the collection. Her duties include carrying the drop off box down the hallway and helping count the number of shoes collected.

Soles4Souls is a non-profit organization with the goal of providing people in need with shoes and clothing all over the world. Since its creation in 2006, it has distributed more than 30 million pairs of shoes.

Those wishing to donate shoes can drop them off in a box at the front of Osage School, located at 112 Somerdale Road. The collection started Monday, March 27 and will conclude Thursday, April 13.

Peluszak said participating in the project will help her students develop many functional and workplace skills, such as motor skills when they carry the boxes of shoes down the hallway, and social skills when they go to other classrooms asking for shoes.

The students also helped brainstorm the information to put on the fliers and ideas on how to collect the shoes. They are responsible for counting the change collected and maintaining necessary supplies, such as garbage bags to carry the shoes and rubber bands to bundle them.

On a typical school day, Peluszak’s students come in, unpack their bags and update the date on the bulletin board, as well as the number of the day. Then they’ll study reading, numbers and math. Third graders Justin Rubin and Geeanna Beale both said their favorite time of the day was gym.

Caitlin Peluszak helps her students bundle the shoes together with rubber bands. The students chose to use big rubber bands or small rubber bands depending on the size of the shoes.

After seeing the number of shoes they already had collected by the third day, Justin adjusted his prediction from five pairs of shoes to 100. Geeanna agreed, though their classmates Ruby Gluck and Lana DiGiacomo were less optimistic, predicting 20.

“People have no shoes and we are going to give shoes to people who have no shoes at all,” Ruby said. The students answered questions with verbal support from their teachers.

“It’s a wonderful challenge,” Peluszak said about working with her students. “So often I feel like people lower their expectations for students with disabilities, and I frequently see if you raise the bar for them, they rise to those expectations.”