Barefoot coach challenges others to help needy children

WEST COLUMBIA, SC (WACH) - A Midlands high school basketball coach is going barefoot for a fourth season to raise awareness for a charity that helps children in need.

Glenforest School athletics director and basketball coach William Knopf practices what he preaches. He has been strolling the sidelines barefoot for four seasons to raise awareness for a charity called Samaritan's Feet.

"I don't think anybody can give enough of themselves," said Knopf. "If you have an opportunity to give back I think you should take advantage of that opportunity."

At a recent practice, Knopf led his team through drills barefoot as he gets ready to coach his 50th game wearing no shoes.

The coach's commitment to baring his soles extends past the basketball court. Each year, he has involved the Glenforest School's student government in the service project, recruiting the community to give to the cause. Over the last three years they have collected two thousand shoes for needy children.

"It's an opportunity for their child, the children of the families from here at the Glenforest School to give back," said Knopf. "They're doing something to benefit others and not just thinking of themselves."

His players understand Knopf expects more than just success on the court and are eager to contribute to the efforts.

"It lets me know that I'm blessed for what I have," said senior John Kitchings. "A lot of kids don't have what I have. So it's good that I can help with this."

Officials with the Central Carolina Community Foundation have taken note of what Coach Knopf is doing. The group recently launched a campaign called "Talk About Giving," which is designed to foster discussion with young people to help teach them about the power of giving back.

Executive director JoAnn Turnquist points to examples like Knopf's efforts as something small that can grow and make a world of difference.

"Children learn everything. You're not born speaking a language. But, you learn how to speak English. The language of giving is just like learning English," said Turnquist. "If we can teach our children and provide examples to our children and then recognize them when they are doing something that makes a difference they will become givers."

Coach Knopf hopes more than just young people are taking note. He has even bigger goals for this season's awareness efforts. Luke Morris, a Lexington High School student he's never even coached, came up with the idea of challenging every coach in the state to coach one game barefoot to help collect 10,000 pairs of shoes.

"You just want more. You know there are more people always out there to help," said Morris. "Coach Knopf knows that too. Just to be able to help people just feels so great. And if other young people get involved it would make the cause even greater."

Knopf has been spreading that doctrine for years now and is more than happy to team up with Morris to pitch the challenge.

"We have our young future jumping on board for this," said Knopf. "So now we just need our coaches in South Carolina to say they will go barefoot for one game to raise awareness for this wonderful organization."

To find out more about how you can get involved click here.

Coach Knopf and Luke Morris sat down with Tyler Ryan on Good Day Columbia to talk about his 50th barefoot game, and the challenge the two are making to coaches throughout the state in an effort to reach their 10,000 shoe goal.