Local company donates shoes to Special Olympians - WFLA News Channel 8

Local company donates shoes to Special Olympians

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TAMPA, FL (WFLA) -

 The Area 8 Special Olympic Summer Games take place this Saturday at the University of South Florida and roughly 300 athletes will compete in top notch footwear. It's all thanks to a local business man who saw a need and stepped in to help.

Rich Wills owns Fitniche. It's a running shoe store. He has three locations in Hyde Park, Wesley Chapel and Lakeland.  The sell name brand named shoes and other sporting goods for runners. Several years ago, he came up with the idea to take shoes that people return and donate them to Special Olympic's athletes.

"This just seemed like a really good thing to do with products we can no longer sell to customers," Wills said. The store offers its customers a 15 day return policy. When shoes are brought back, Wills takes them, boxes them up and sends them back to the manufacturer for a partial credit.  Wills said "Over the course of a year we'll take back in 3 to 4 hundred pairs of shoes typically from customers where the shoes just didn't quite work out for them.. there's nothing wrong necessarily with the shoes.. they just weren't just a good fit. every shoe fits every foot differently"

So,  about three years ago, he decided to ask those manufacturers if he could instead send them a spreadsheet of the shoes, why they were returned and then keep the actual shoes and donate them to Special Olympic athletes. Some said yes, others, no.

"We get to do something really nice for the community and a deserving group of athletes,"  the business said. But he added, the real winners are the athletes. They get a gently used pair of sneakers that originally cost anywhere between $100-$175… for free.

Saturday morning, Fitniche staff will fit the 300 or so athletes with those shoes before the games begin at USF Tampa Campus. Will's generosity doesn't stop there. He said, when customers buy new shoes, they typically leave their old ones, which he then donates to Lighthouse Ministries in Lakeland, who in turn gives them to the homeless.

Although Wills may never have walked a mile in any of the people's shoes he's donated to, he wants to help make the mile ‘they' walk, a little better.

 

 

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