Local nonprofit teams with donor, L.A. Chargers player to give shoes to 100 at-risk youth
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of stepping into a brand-new pair of shoes. But for those struggling with housing insecurity, who may not know where their next meal is coming from, moments like that may seem out of reach.
For that reason, Costa Mesa nonprofit StandUp for Kids — which provides housing, school support and job training for homeless and at-risk youth and young adults — teamed up with donor UnitedHealthcare to distribute more than 100 pairs of athletic shoes and clean socks to clients served by the organization.
During a small ceremony Thursday at Costa Mesa’s TeWinkle Park, a contingent of volunteers and local officials gathered with special guest Chargers linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr. to deliver the goods to grateful recipients.
Tami Adams, chief executive of UnitedHealthcare’s Southern California region, told the young people assembled about growing up in Long Beach, one of seven children living in a two-bedroom house, putting herself through school and trying to find a life path.
She said she wanted them to know they have a community of people who care about them.
“When I think about what today brings, today hopefully brings some inspiration, hopefully a feeling of compassion and community and a village — we all need a village,” Adams said, inviting Murray to speak next.
The linebacker shared how when he was younger, a lot of people depended on him as the oldest of five siblings. Now, at 24, he looks back and realizes he should have cherished his childhood. He encouraged listeners to pursue their dreams and not be dissuaded.
“Everything you put your mind to you can achieve,” Murray said. “I like the saying ‘Why not me?’ In anything you want to do, why not you? Why don’t you become a doctor, or that person who becomes CEO of that firm, or why don’t you be the person who graduates college and gets a master’s degree?
“Anybody can do it,” he continued. “Anything is possible in this life. It’s all up to you and your mindset.”
StandUp for Kids Executive Director Justine Palmore said that for the past 20 years, the organization has helped young people ages 12 through 25 who are living on the streets, couch surfing, staying with friends because they have nowhere else to stay, or struggling with their school work because of similar conditions.
She said that while owning a new pair of shoes can help promote mental health and provide a sense of confidence, it may not be a top priority for at-risk youth.
“If you’re living on your own, that’s the last thing you’re thinking about,” she said. “You’re thinking about where you’re going to eat and where you’re going to sleep — it’s a constantly vigilant life.”
The giveaway was made possible by a $10,000 donation from UnitedHealthcare and another $5,000 from an employee-led community engagement committee, which partners with organizations referred by individual employees with connections to the groups and the causes they serve.
Adams said the company began partnering with StandUp for Kids several years ago, after an employee brought the organization to leaders’ attention.
“The reason we partner with [them] is because of what they’re doing. And this today was a wonderful partnership,” she added. “It’s really about the kids today, letting them know we’re here for them.”
For 23-year-old Tre’veon Richard, who received a pair of Nikes at Thursday’s giveaway, StandUp for Kids has been a lifesaver. He moved from Louisiana in May 2022 and enrolled in Santa Ana College with help from a Division 1 athletics scholarship, not knowing where he would live or how he’d afford classes.
Someone at the school connected him with the nonprofit, whose members helped him secure housing in Irvine, sign up for food assistance and are now helping out with the monthly rent.
Now he’s working toward a liberal arts degree and playing small forward on the college’s basketball team, with hopes of continuing his education. His dream is to one day be interviewed by TV media, so he can look in the camera and thank StandUp for Kids in front of a national audience.
What would he say?
“Thank you so much. You guys have had a major, astronomical impact on my life,” he said. “I think God brought me here. Thank you for helping me through this time.”
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