‘Dunk Your Kicks’

One of the things I enjoy most about my journalism career is the various topics I have the opportunity to write about.

The article below appeared in the SanTan Sun News, a newspaper I write for in Chandler, Arizona today.

I enjoyed writing this article because of its unique fundraising initiative, “Dunk Your Kicks.” It’s a cool idea, collecting old sneakers and running shoes to raise money for pediatric cancer patients.

I talked to two mothers who have son’s going through cancer treatments right now . . . I could not imagine their journey, but am glad there are foundations like the Max Cure Foundation to help them through their hard times.

‘Dunk Your Kicks’ while supporting pediatric cancer patients

Published in the SanTan Sun News Nov. 16, 2013

Parents who are struggling to financially support their cancer-stricken children are receiving help from a unique fundraising initiative in the Southeast Valley.

Three Chandler youngsters Jayden, Angelisa, and Tylar Bailey, spent theirfall break dispersing boxes at various locations to help collect sneakers for Dunk Your Kicks after their mother Erica Bailey shared information about the cause.

Tylar says he is helping with Dunk Your Kicks “because I don’t want anyone to have to fight cancer anymore.”

Started in 2012, their campaign raises money to help find a cure for pediatric cancer. The trio’s goal was also to help low-income and military families who are experiencing financial struggles while their child is having treatments.

Now, instead of the 200 million pairs of sneakers being thrown away each year sitting in landfills producing toxins, the sneakers are earning a profit and helping many families.

The fundraising campaign was created by the Max Cure Foundation in December 2008 by the New York-based Plotkin family. Their son, Max, who was diagnosed with cancer before his 4th birthday, is in remission at 9 years old.

“David, Max’s father, gave up everything to run the foundation,” says Erica Bailey, who began working with the foundation at the beginning of the year.

Instead of asking individuals for monetary donations, Dunk Your Kicks collects gently used sneakers and running shoes.

“It’s been a phenomenal campaign and it’s growing and growing,” Bailey says.

Her children placed boxes at 10 Audio Express locations and Fix 24 Chiropractic, which will remain there until Fri., Nov. 22. Audio Express is offering a $10 off coupon for every pair of sneakers donated.

“Their goal is to raise 20,000 pairs of sneakers,” Bailey explains.

Each sneaker earns $1, which in turn goes to families.

“I will be able to physically show my children that 20,000 sneakers equates to $20,000. It’s visual. It teaches them morals and values.”

An international recycler helps the foundation resell the shoes to merchants in developing countries.

“The more sneakers we collect, the more children we can help and the longer we can help them for,” she says. “We are putting shoes on men, women and children who die from diseases.”

The Baileys’ efforts are providing assistance to three families this year via the Dunk Your Kicks donations. Their children are undergoing cancer treatments.

Delilah Dow’s son Buddy, 5, was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, high-grade brain tumor, in 2011. Soon thereafter, Buddy underwent surgery for tumors on the back side of his brain. He also has tumors on the front of his brain as well as his spinal cord.

The initial diagnosis was shocking for Dow, who lives in Phoenix. Buddy began chemotherapy after his diagnosis and now has treatments every three weeks, Monday through Friday, for three hours at a time. Dow says the chemo is helping the tumors and preventing further growth.

“He is really strong,” Dow says. “He doesn’t like chemo, but he deals with it. He gives me the strength to keep doing what I am doing for him.”

The young boy started school this year at William T. Machan Elementary School where he also attends physical, occupational and speech therapy.

“He misses a whole week of school because his energy level is down,” Dow explains of his week of chemotherapy. “He doesn’t like to miss one day of school. He’s just a kid that likes to learn a lot.”

Another mother has a similar story.

Amber Foley has a similar story. Her son, Maurice Harrison, 9, was diagnosed with a nervous system disease and subsequent brain tumor in 2011.

“Since then he has had two brain surgeries,” Foley explains.

Maurice had his first surgery on Nov. 9, 2011, which was followed by unsuccessful chemotherapy treatments. An MRI was done in March 2012 and he had his second surgery in April of that year.

“Because of where it was, they weren’t able to get all of it,” Foley explains. “That’s why they are doing so many treatments.”

Maurice has had 33 radiation treatments and is on his second round of chemotherapy. Foley says he has at least another year to go with treatments. He has chemo treatments every two weeks for six to eight hours at a time.

“He goes one day every other week,” she explains. “He is just tired that day. This chemo is a lot calmer than other treatments we have tried with him.”

Foley explains her son is willing to give this cancer a fight.

“He is so kind hearted and so willing to help other people before he is worried about himself,” she says.

Although the diagnosis has been with the punches. She says as a single mother of four, she tries to work as many part-time jobs and seasonal jobs as her schedule allows.

“We try to make the best out of what we can and the situation,” she says. “For a child to go through it, it’s heartbreaking. God has a final say and take it day by day.”

The two families voice their appreciation for the Bailey family.

“I am really overwhelmed with happiness with how much help they were able to give me and my family,” Foley says. “I think it’s a wonderful foundation helping kids out here and kids in different countries that don’t have shoes. Everyone wins with this foundation.”

Bailey says so far they have collected 165,000 sneakers this year.

“Most of the time we collect them through mud runs and races,” she explains. “We collect muddy sneakers after the event (because) they typically end up in the garbage.”

If individuals are unable to donate their sneakers, they can log onto dunkyourkicks.org/match-a-dunk, and make a donation. Bailey says the donation will stay in Arizona.