Kindergartner Nikki McKenzie looked at her new shoes — a pair of pink-and-silver sneakers, fresh out of the box — and pranced down the hallway.
"I can jump in them and balance on them," she said, smiling. "I think they're nice."
Every student at Colvin Elementary School got a new pair of shoes, socks, gloves and a hat Friday, thanks to an annual giveaway organized by the Boeing Employees Community Fund.
Donors and volunteers will continue the giveaway today at Cooper and Oaklawn Elementaries in Derby. On Wednesday, students at Jardine Middle School will receive free sweatshirts.
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Children at Colvin, where 97 percent of students are economically disadvantaged, lined up by class just inside the school entrance Friday morning.
Local Boeing managers handed out boxes of shoes. Employees from Payless Shoe Source, who measured the children's feet in October, helped each student try on new sneakers and exchange ones that didn't fit correctly. Volunteers from Papa John's and other sponsors handed out hats and gloves.
"I love it. I really do," said Chelsey Isam, a Payless employee, as she helped Jesus Lucero lace up a new pair of shoes. The boy's old shoes were a children's size 9; his new ones are 10 1/2.
"I know they're quiet and everything," Isam said of the children, "but you just know they're so grateful."
Six-year-old Skye Mayhugh admired her new pair of "Wizards of Waverly Place" sneakers, inspired by the Disney Channel show. She especially liked the glittery pink laces, she said.
Deanna Joynes, a social worker at Colvin, said many families rely on charities or hand-me-downs for shoes. That means kids' shoes often don't fit well, if at all.
Recently, a pre-kindergartner came to school with shoes that were "at least three sizes too big," Joynes said. The boy had a hard time walking and keeping up with his classmates, she said.
"To them, this means something along the lines of a new car," Joynes said of the shoe giveaway.
"This is their primary mode of transportation. They walk to school in rain, snow, cold weather. ... We have students whose shoes are worn through, with holes on the bottom. To get a new pair just means the world to them."
Chrissie Nixon, who helps administer employee giving programs for Boeing Wichita, said the shoe giveaway is "a great example of people working together to help those in need."
Joynes, the social worker, agreed. She said students started asking about "Shoe Day" weeks ago.
"They were like, 'When do we get shoes?' They've been looking forward to this a long time," she said. "It's a big day."
Kevin Bell, a senior operations manager at Boeing, wore a Santa hat as he handed out boxes of shoes marked with each student's name.
"It's great to see the smiles on their faces," he said. "I tell my own kids, 'You guys think you don't get things you want. You should spend some time down here.'
"These shoes mean a lot to them, so it's just great to be able to help out."