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If the shoe fits

by BILL BULEY
Staff Writer | June 28, 2023 1:08 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — Away from the rest of the kids, sitting on the gym floor, back against the wall, Conner Swaim tossed aside the wrapping paper and pulled another shoe out of a box.

The green Vans, size five, slipped on his right foot after a few good tugs.

“Vans are hard to get on,” he said. ”But they’re really cool.”

At the other end of the gym in the Lola and Duane Hagadone Boys and Girls Club of Kootenai County, 6-year-old Amelia Johnson was beaming with pride Wednesday as she showed off a pair of glittery, purple Skechers.

They felt springy and fast, she said.

“I like them a lot,” she said. “They’ll make me fly. That’s why I like them.”

The two kids were among hundreds who received free shoes and socks courtesy of Rita Case, president and CEO of Rick Case Automotive Group. She funded the gift of 450 pairs of shoes and 900 pairs of Bombas socks.

Nikes, Reeboks, Filas, Champions, New Balances and Vans of all sizes and colors were in boxes on tables around the perimeter of the gym.

Boys and girls arrived in groups to peruse, hold, eyeball, try on and then decide which pair they wanted to take home.

It was their call, with help from volunteers.

“I love to get these kids shoes,” Case said. "They go through them so fast.”

The giveaway is an annual event through Soles4Souls Inc. so children at the Boys and Girls Club on 15th Street in Coeur d'Alene receive new athletic shoes.

“I really believe in the Boys and Girls Club as being a positive place for kids, and one of the things to keep kids really positive are shoes that fit and are fun and keep them athletic and moving throughout the summer,” Case said.

Mark Kuhnhausen, executive director, Boys and Girls Clubs of Kootenai County, said it was awesome to see the joy and excitement of the kids as they showed off their new footwear.

“It’s just another way the community comes together,” he said. “We have people like Rita that care about our kids.”

About 250 boys and girls ages 6 to 14 attend the Boys and Girls Club in Coeur d’Alene each day it is open in the summer.

The Boys and Girls Club is adding another 5,000 square feet to its Post Falls site.

But even Case’s enthusiasm couldn’t please everyone.

One boy frowned as he declined a pair of shoes after trying them on. A bit too big and not quite right.

"What do you think?" Case asked. "You'll grow into them."

He shook his head. No.

Case was not deterred and encouraged him to consider other models.

“Every kid needs to have them,” she said. “Every kid loves new shoes."

Owen Swaim was easier to please.

He smiled as he opened a box, unveiling a pair of white Nikes.

“I like these,” he said.

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Rita Case helps a girl look for a pair of shoes at the Lola and Duane Hagadone Boys and Girls Club on Tuesday.

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BILL BULEY/Press

Volunteer Brad Baldwin helps Jaxon Gray try on shoes at the Lola and Duane Hagadone Boys and Girls Club on Tuesday.

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BILL BULEY/Press

Beckham Pleas looks at a box to check out a pair of shoes at the Lola and Duane Hagadone Boys and Girls Club on Tuesday.

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BILL BULEY/Press

Conner Swaim sits against a gym wall as he tries on shoes at the Lola and Duane Hagadone Boys and Girls Club on Tuesday.

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BILL BULEY/Press

Amelia Johnson shows off her new shoes at the Lola and Duane Hagadone Boys and Girls Club of Kootenai County on Tuesday.

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Owen Swaim opens a box to reveal his new Nike shoes he received Tuesday at the Lola and Duane Hagadone Boys and Girls Club of Kootenai County.