GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Don Carlson and Galen Duncan have been close since their college days, playing basketball together at Lake Superior State University.
"After one of his MBA travel basketball games, we sat around and thought, 'hey, what can we do to impact kids and we both have an affinity for shoes and basketball and sports in general,'" Carlson said.
Together, the two started 'It's Gotta Be The Shoes' - a new local non-profit that is specializing in getting new basketball shoes on the feet of kids in need.
"Growing up as a kid, we both fashioned our outfits after our shoes and had a lot of our self esteem related to wearing shoes and having nice shoes," Duncan added. "We want to give a little bit of that back."
Carlson and Duncan also add that something as simple as new shoes can help kids in not only athletics, but academics as well as a high self esteem.
This afternoon, eight girls from the Pual I. Phillips Boys and Girls Club in Grand Rapids sat on the bench of the MBA 2022 travel basketball team during a game.
"I like basketball, it's my favorite sport and when I grow up, I want to be just like them," said 10-year-old, Amicka Swanigan.
After the game, those eight girls joined the basketball team upstairs at the MSA Fieldhouse for lunch and also received shirts and their new pair of shoes.
"I don't have a lot of shoes at home and I usually play in my shoes and they get messed up sometimes," added Briyanna Dancler, an 11-year-old basketball player.
Their club director, Derrick Owens Sr., said that the day couldn't have gone any better.
"Priceless - one word, priceless, it was like Christmas morning, like getting the gift you've always wanted," he said, smiling.
Each girl partnered with one of the basketball players and wrote a thank you card, teaching an important life lesson of gratitude.
"At Boys and Girls Club, we're big on character and this just reinforces that," Owens added. "When someone gives you something, you say thank you, you say it from the bottom of your heart and with compassion."
It's a day the girls and basketball team will never forget because of the new friendships that were formed and of course, those new shoes.
"I got the Space Jam shoes and I can't wait to show them off," Swanigan laughed.
And Dancler couldn't contain her smile, either.
"I'm really thankful because I got to be here today," she added.
'It's Gotta Be The Shoes' runs based on donations and most of the time, out of Carlson and Duncan's own pocket. If you would like to learn more or help the organization, click here.