Shoes of Hope

Georgia State men’s basketball coach Ron Hunter, his staff and players traveled halfway around the world to South Africa this summer to distribute shoes and hope with Samaritan’s Feet.

Hunter, making his sixth trip abroad with the organization and just second with his team, though first with Georgia State, said the trip was a memorable one for the team for many reasons, but the most important reason for being there was to “bring hope to the lives of so many children in South Africa,” he said.

The Panthers 10-day trip took them from Cape Town, where they visited scenic Signal Hill and went on a safari, to the small village of Paarl. There, they hosted a basketball clinic and gave away new shoes to needy children.

On their first day in Paarl, several other children without shoes and some with shoes in very poor condition approached Coach Hunter asking for shoes as well. Fortunately, the team had some extras that had not been distributed earlier and Hunter was more than happy to help make their day a special one as well.

“To be able to wash a child’s feet, give them a pair of socks and put on their first pair of shoes gives me a feeling inside that I cannot describe'” Hunter says. “The smile on the face of each child we help is priceless and is worth more to me than anything I could ever accomplish on the basketball court.”

In 2007, Samaritan’s Feet set a goal of distributing 10 million pairs of shoes to 10 million children in 10 years. Hunter became a representative of the organization a short time later, coaching a basketball game barefoot for the first time on Jan. 24, 2008 while still the head coach of IUPUI. With the help of the community, Hunter was able to raise 140,000 pairs of shoes for the organization.

Since then, Hunter has coached one game barefoot each season. In his first season at Georgia State, Hunter coached the Panthers to a 75-61 victory in the Sports Arena in front of nearly 2,700 fans, including 1,600 students who were helping to support the cause.

Hunter has made trips to Peru, Costa Rica, Nigeria and South Africa in the past. He has also helped distribute shoes in the United States. As part of the Martin Luther King Jr. weekend last winter, Hunter and his players distributed more than 200 pairs of shoes in the Atlanta area.

“Our goal is to help children everywhere,” Hunter says. “I have no doubt that as we bring smiles to the faces of children in South Africa, our team will also become more appreciative of everything that we are blessed with in the United States.”