Local youth collect sneakers to help keep Earth ‘greener’

In an attempt to make the world a little greener, two young gymnasts collected sneakers to save space in the landfill.

After watching TV shows about service projects and supporting her mother, Blythe, through breast cancer treatments, 9-year-old Carmel from Manalapan wanted to give back to the community.

Those interviewed for this article asked that their surname not be used.

As her mother went through two years of cancer treatment, Carmel often spoke about wanting to help others and make a change for the planet.

When the GotSneakers Foundation caught Blythe’s attention, she and Carmel knew it was the right fit for them.

GotSneakers will accept donations of sneakers in any condition for recycling or donating to a home where they are needed. The foundation sends anyone who collects sneaker bags in which the sneakers can be sent via UPS, making the process easier, especially for children, according to Blythe.

“I wanted something that young kids could pick up and relate to, and something that kids could connect with. I liked the idea of ​​donating sneakers because they can be recycled into playground mulch, which my kids love,” Blythe added.

Carmel recruited her gymnastics teammate, Caylee, 11, from Freehold Township, to help with the sneaker recycling effort.

Caylee and her mother, Rachel, supported Carmel and Blythe’s family while Blythe underwent her cancer treatment.

“At first the girls were nervous about going door to door asking people to donate their sneakers, but after going to many houses they realized that people were much more responsive than they didn’t think so,” Blythe said.

Carmel and Caylee are members of Freehold Township’s Freehold Elite Gymnastics team. For every pair of sneakers donated, the girls will receive 25 cents for their team. Their goal is to collect 500 pairs of sneakers and so far they have collected about 100 pairs of sneakers.

“Meeting our community and smiling at our neighbors as we went door to door made us feel good because we knew we were going to help others,” Caylee said.

Sneakers of all sizes and conditions are accepted by GotSneakers.

“Girls get excited when there’s a pair of reusable sneakers given away because it means they’re going to a new house, but also because they’ll get more money for their gymnastics team. They also think how hilarious to have a size 14 men’s basketball shoe because to them it feels like the biggest shoe in the world because they’re so small,” Blythe said.

On May 18 and 19, Carmel and Caylee hosted a sneaker drive outside Freehold Elite Gymnastics on Paragon Way in Freehold Township. The girls held up colorful handmade signs to attract the attention of passing drivers.

The girls’ gymnastics coach, Pru McLaughlin, was delighted to donate to help a worthy cause.

“I’ve known these girls for a few years and was more than willing to donate my old sneakers. It also doesn’t hurt that it will offset some gym costs as well,” McLaughlin said.

After 30 minutes, the girls had three bags full of donated sneakers. They hope to continue the success they have had so far.

Carmel, Caylee and their moms will continue to accept sneaker donations as they try to help the environment. The girls eventually hope to place a sneaker collection bin at a local business and continue to host donation events.

“I love seeing people donate because it means it’s helping our planet be greener,” Carmel said.

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