Ohio State students will free their feet when they walk a mile shoe-less around campus today to support giving shoes to children in Third World countries.

TOMS Ohio State was a club formed in fall 2009 to combat podoconiosis, a debilitating disease that causes extreme swelling, repeated ulcers and deformity, especially in the legs, according to the TOMS Web site.

For today’s “One Day Without Shoes” event, TOMS partnered with Blood Water Mission, a group trying to fight the HIV and AIDS epidemics and working to provide clean water in Africa.

“TOMS and Blood Water Mission fit really well together because a lot of villages that TOMS goes to, they have to walk miles to get water everyday, and if they have to walk those miles barefoot, that’s really hard on their feet,” said Andrew MacMillan, a fourth-year in psychology and vice president of TOMS Ohio State.

TOMS business plan, The One for One model, works by selling shoes online.

For every pair of shoes purchased from its Web site, a pair of shoes is sent overseas. Members from the organization and its founder, Blake Mycoskie, go to various countries throughout the year and personally place the shoes on children’s feet.

“People in the United States forget that shoes are a necessity, and people going around the world barefoot get diseases that are 100 percent preventable with shoes,” said Nicole Lee, a fourth-year in special education and president of TOMS Ohio State. “We’re just asking people to go barefoot for one day, or one mile, when others have to go barefoot every day.”

Although going shoe-less is optional for this free event, students will be able to learn about the rough conditions many children live in and how they can help, while having fun. Free food and drinks will be provided after the campus walk, with representatives from Blood Water Mission and TOMS speaking and the band Twenty One Pilots playing.

The TOMS Ohio State club may be new to campus, but that wouldn’t be known by their following. On the One Day Without Shoes Web site, TOMS clubs from around the country participated in a competition to see how many people they could get to register for this event, and OSU was the winner with more than 600 people registered.

For winning, TOMS Ohio State received 30 pairs of white canvas shoes, which the club will disperse among members.

The club is hoping for a big turnout for the barefoot walk around campus.

“It would be really neat to see 200 or 300 people,” MacMillan said.
“People are going to stop and wonder what we’re doing, which is a good way to tell people about the TOMS movement.”

This event is aimed to encourage awareness about the plights developing nations deal with. By learning about these hardships, students will be able to get involved and help fix them.

“I hope people understand just how privileged we are,” said Alyssa Caslow, a fourth-year in psychology and treasurer of TOMS Ohio State. “We all have so much compared to a lot of people and it’s time for us to give back. All it takes is one person and everyone can help.”

The event will be from 4-9 p.m. at Browning Amphitheater near Mirror Lake. Registration for the walk will start at 4 p.m. with the walk taking place around 5 p.m. Guest speakers, free food and music will all be available directly after the walk.