The Chargers introduced their annual back-to-school give away to the south Los Angeles community on Tuesday, October 3, where they supplied 450 elementary school students with a new pair of shoes, socks, backpacks and autographed Chargers memorabilia. This giveaway has been put on by the Chargers for nearly three decades. A number of Chargers players and alumni were on hand at WSS Shoe store to help each student hand pick their back-to-school care package.
“When I was a little kid, every time I got a new pair of shoes, I felt like it was the best day in the world,” said Mike Williams, Chargers rookie wide receiver. “To have these kids come in and get a fresh pair of shoes, I know it means a lot to them.”
The shoe warehouse was filled with animated students who were able to take pictures and interact with Williams and his teammates. Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson was also in attendance and emphasized how this event is just one of the many ways the Chargers are making efforts to connect its players with the youth in the Los Angeles community.
“A lot of these kids are into football and they see these guys on TV, so it’s great to be able to shop with the guys they see on TV, outside of the helmet,” said Tomlinson, now a special advisor to the team.
Many of the players mentioned that they were up early on their day off and seeing how much of an impact it had on the children made it worth it.
“I am very fortunate to be in the situation that I am; so, to come out here and help anybody in need is a blessing for me,” Chargers cornerback, Casey Hayward remarked humbly.
Forty-five students were selected from 10 schools in the Carson area. The overwhelming majority of those students come from low-income and underserved communities.
“The impact is immeasurable,” Ursala Martin, Broadacres Elementary School principal told the L.A. Sentinel. “Many of them did not have shoes; some of their shoes are torn and worn. They come from foster homes, homeless shelters, they’re impoverished, so this is an experience that we can’t put a price tag on.”
Students came in chanting, “Let’s go Chargers” and by the time they finished getting their new gear, both the players and students were all smiles. There was a designated play area with games for them to interact with their classmates while they waited to be assigned a player.
“Watching the kid’s [faces] brighten up as soon as they walk in,” was the highlight for Chargers rookie linebacker, Nigel Harris. “They see cameras out here … who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?”
A partnership between the Chargers and WSS enabled students to have a tailormade, once in a lifetime experience.
“It’s the elevation of their mentality and thinking about tying WSS with the Chargers. “All of our stores are located in the inner-city,” said WSS District Manager, Steve Velez.
WSS is a shoe retailer that was founded with the mission of bringing access to affordable, stylish shoes to the inner city throughout Southern California.
“You don’t drive by a WSS store unless you’re in the city,” said Velez. Making it an ideal location to host the event.
When the Chargers were in San Diego, this event was hosted at several shoe stores around the San Diego community on the same day. While the event marks the first shoe give away since the move to Los Angeles, the Chargers are committed to expanding the event in years to come. 450 students have been forever impacted by the Chargers and will be heading into their classrooms with confidence, sporting new shoes, socks, and a quality backpack.