After 15 years of outfitting at-risk young people with shoes, Nikki Berti has learned not to ask too many questions.
“These are children with tragic backgrounds,” Berti said. “Kids are resilient. They are always excited to get shoes; they are happy, dancing and smiling. I’ve realize this (is what) matters.”
Berti and her husband, Tony, founded the Goodie Two Shoes Foundation, a nonprofit in southwest Las Vegas that provides shoes to at-risk Clark County School District students.
The group’s work began as a one-day giveaway inspired by an annual event the Bertis volunteered for while Tony was an offensive lineman for the NFL’s then-San Diego Chargers. After Tony retired in 2001, the couple brought the idea to Las Vegas. The Bertis had a home in Las Vegas and moved to the valley full time after Tony retired.
The event in San Diego had an enormous effect on Tony, who Nikki said wore a size 10 shoe in fifth grade and found it difficult to find his size in the thrift stores where his family often bought shoes.
In San Diego, the Chargers organization would take children to a Payless store and help them pick out well-fitting shoes.
In Las Vegas, the Goodie Two Shoes Foundation will hit the milestone of serving over 100,000 children through large-scale distributions at Title I, Tier I schools with large numbers of children with limited resources. Title I schools receive federal funds to assist low-income students. At Tier I schools, 75 percent or more of the student body receives free or reduced-price lunch. CCSD has 272 Title I schools.
Nikki said the foundation serves 25 CCSD schools each school year. Each school identifies 400 students in the most critical need, and they are given shoes and socks.
All of the distributed shoes are new, name-brand, closed-toe sneakers.
Nikki said she has seen students come to the distribution events in flip-flops, shoes that are too big and shoes that are falling apart.
The foundation has about 75 volunteers. One of them, Rick Lefever, has been helping six years and goes to the foundation’s distributions every week. As a count room manager at the Golden Nugget, Lefever said, he uses vacation days to volunteer at the distribution events.
“You fall in love with the smiling kids over something so simple and easy that we take for granted,” Lefever said. “A new pair of shoes makes their day, makes their week.”
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