Sole Christmas

Skate-shoe giant gives to the needy.

The "éS Mission," organized by Sole Technologies last Christmas Eve, seems like a page torn out of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Big company (and its employees) spends Christmas Eve at the Los Angeles Mission distributing 10,000 pairs of shoes to underprivileged families. By no means am I comparing Sole to the infamous penny-pinching Ebenezer Scrooge, but the generous spirit of their action draws an easy parallel to his attitude at the end of the tale–after he was visited by the three ghosts and reversed his ways.

Sole doesn’t have any ghosts dragging chains in the hallway, but they do have Marketing Director Yasemin Oktay and General Manager Sid Batey. Oktay has volunteered at the L.A. Mission since she was ten years old, so she is aware of the needs of the underprivileged, and Batey knew of other companies donating product to charity. They worked with the Skid Row-based Los Angeles Mission to get Sole involved in their annual Christmas Eve event. Originally, Sole had wanted to set up ramps and street obstacles and put on a skate demo for the kids, but space was limited at the Mission, so that idea was nixed.

In the end, it took two UPS trucks (also donated) to cart the shoes to the Mission. In a tent shared with Disney, which gave out toys, Sole employees handed out shoes to kids who weaved through the tent in a massive line that snaked around the Mission property. There were so many kids, in order to pass out all the shoes in time Sole Technology Team Manager Don Brown had to visually guess their sizes. Brown says that after seven years in the shoe business, he’s developed a good eye for it.

One of Sole’s main goals with the Mission was to expose kids to skateboarding in a positive light. On the flip side of that coin, people at Sole were exposed to the plight of many families in their community. "It opened a lot of people’s eyes to a different way of life," says Oktay.

Brown gave up some quality time with his family on Christmas Eve to take part. "It felt good to be helping people in a little way," he says. While that might sound corny, Brown says it’s the truth.

Sole is currently trying to organize two separate events for shoe donations–one would be in the early fall "back to school" period, and the other on Christmas Eve.

While the donated shoes are a tax write-off for Sole, the effort of organizing the éS Mission and the time donated by individual employees were commendable. It’s a case of skateboarding doing something for its community. And local shops should be pleased that the shoes weren’t discounted at a warehouse sale.

The bottom line, as Brown points out, is that 10,000 kids got nice shoes in time for Christmas. Just like Tiny Tim, who was granted a chance for a healthier life, these kids got a fresh pair of shoes to do that Muska-size rail.