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Toms Shoes launches new program to benefit gorilla habitat in Africa

Toms 'Chief Animal Lover' Heather Mycoskie heads new Animals Initiative program

Venice-based Toms Shoes is going animal-style with a new partnership that benefits endangered mountain gorillas living in Africa's oldest national park.

A version of Toms classic alpargata silhouette bearing the embroidered logo of Virunga National Park hit retail Tuesday, which, in addition to providing footwear to a child in need (through the company's familiar "one-for-one" formula), will see a portion of each sale donated to the 3,000-square-mile wildlife habitat located along the Democratic Republic of Congo's eastern border.

It's the first shoe to be released under the company's new animal initiative, a program spearheaded by Heather Mycoskie, wife of Toms founder Blake Mycoskie, who, as the company's newly appointed "Chief Animal Lover" (everyone at the company has a similarly quirky title; Blake is "Chief Shoe Giver") will select a different animal each year to be the beneficiary of the brand's support.

As a result of the new program -- and her ongoing animal advocacy efforts -- Heather Mycoskie is set to be one of the honorees at the upcoming Beastly Ball fundraiser organized by the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Assn.

The safari-themed event, to take place at the L.A. Zoo and Botanical Gardens on June 14, is now in its 44th year and annually raises more than $1 million for the zoo. Additional information (including how to purchase a $1,000 ticket to attend) is available online.

As of May 13, the Toms + Virunga National Park collection is available through the company's website, its brick-and-mortar flagship stores in Venice and Austin, Texas, and at the L.A. Zoo. The shoe retails for $64 for men's and women's styles and from $42 to $48 for the kids' versions.

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