Midlands children give birthday gifts to charity

WEST COLUMBIA, S.C. (WACH) - Isaac Rikard didn't want much for his birthday. He just asked for some shoes. A lot of them. But, they weren't for him.

The six-year-old Chapin boy and his four year-old sister, Eliza Kate, choose to give their birthday gifts to a charity every year, then spend months collecting all the goods from friends and family.

Over the years, they have given to the American Red Cross and SisterCare, but this year they chose Charlotte-based charity Samaritan's Feet. The organization gives shoes to underprivleged children around the country and world.

"This year we donate these shoes to Samaritan's Feet for goodwill and people that don't have shoes," said Isaac, a Chapin Elementary School student.

The efforts of the brother and sister duo are an offshoot of an awareness campaign waged by Glenforest School athletics director and boy's basketball coach, William Knopf. Dubbed the "Barefoot Coach," Knopf has coached more than 100 consecutive games barefoot over the past six seasons to raise awareness, money and collect shoes for Samaritan's Feet.

But, he's only part of the equation. The Glenforest adminstration and entire student body have rallied around his efforts and made it an annual service learning project.

They've collected thousands of shoes and raised thousands of dollars for the cause. Seeing the Rikard children get behind their effort shows them the project is making an impact.

"I think what's neat is that it's spreading outside the Glenforest family," said Glenforest head of school Susan Thomas. "Our children are learning that giving is important. It's a lifelong skill that will carry them a long way in life in serving our community."

The Rikard children don't attend the Glenforest School, but saw Knopf going shoeless in his annual Barefoot Walk across Columbia and asked their mother why he was doing it.

Her answer got them interested in selecting Samaritan's Feet for their yearly birthday project.

"It's tough in today's society where kids are so 'gimme, gimme, gimme' to keep them grounded," said the children's mother, Michelle. "This is one way that we can remind them that they have a lot that they should be thankful for."

Isaac and Eliza Kate made their special delivery before a Glenforest School basketball game last week. They pulled a red wagon full of 60 pairs of shoes to mid-court where they were greeted by Coach Knopf and a cheering crowd.

"I hope that other people around the world get them and they are happy to see these shoes and have them," said Isaac.

By the sound of things in the Glenforest School gym on Friday night, the crowd was certainly happy.

Isaac and his sister have already chosen a charity for next year's birthday mission. They are asking for children's foods for the Harvest Hope Food Bank.