"It will open the door for families to spend their money on toys and Christmas presents."
For the kindergarten students at Sequoyah Elementary in Tulsa, Oklahoma, their annual dose of Christmas cheer will come in pairs this holiday season.
Teaching assistant Bethany Martin has decided to celebrate her birthday in an interesting way this year. Instead of being on the receiving end of her birthday, she'd rather perform random acts of kindness for others. So far, the first-year teacher has sent letters of appreciation to different people every day, and she's delivered flowers to law enforcement officers. But for her next grand gesture, Martin wants to do something that hits a little closer to home. In this case, it'll be at her home away from home—the classroom.
Once Martin started noticing her students showing up to the Title I school wearing tattered shoes and worn-down sneakers, Martin knew she needed to act. The best gift, in her opinion, that she could give was new shoes.
"There was a little boy in one of my classes whose shoe completely ripped apart and I had to duct tape it together," Martin recalled. "I asked him if there was any other shoes that he had at home that he could wear and he said he did not have any that fit."
Martin set one specific goal for herself: buy every single kindergartener in the school brand-new footwear for Christmas. She quickly got to work measuring the feet of each student and inquiring about their favorite colors and styles. Of course, with more than 80 kindergarten students at the school, this act of generosity didn't come easy (or cheap).
"It was such a big goal at first that I almost didn't even put it out there for anyone to know about it," Martin added. "I thought it was going to be impossible to reach."
Martin’s initial fundraising goals were small. In the first few days of her GoFundMe page being active, she only raised $1,000. However, after her holiday wish started gaining traction with local news outlets, Martin ending up raising more than $17,000. Now, armed with more cash than she expected, Martin wants to spread the love even further. She plans to provide new shoes to the every kid at the school—that's 620 students, to be exact.
"It will open the door for their families to spend their money on toys and Christmas presents, rather than having to worry about having to provide basic needs for their children," Martin explained. "The fact that there has been so many strangers that I will never meet donating to a kid that they will never meet is just the most amazing feeling."
As for the present she’s most looking forward to receiving this holiday season? It definitely doesn’t fit nicely into a box, and it doesn't come wrapped with pretty bows. But it's just as special. And Martin said she can't wait to receive it with open arms. The gift she's referring to is seeing the smile on each student's face and leaving a lasting impression on others.
"I want to leave a legacy of generosity and I want to inspire others to be generous as well," said Martin.
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With your help, each and every student at Sequoyah Elementary can unwrap a new pair of shoes underneath the Christmas tree this season. To donate, visit Bethany Martin’s GoFundMe page here.