Something as simple as a pair of shoes can go a long way for an underprivileged child. University of Mary student athletes saw that firsthand on Sunday when they volunteered with a global non-profit to help kids in Bismarck.
Washing a child's feet and giving them a new pair of shoes doesn't necessarily seem like the first step towards changing someone's life, but the organization Samaritan's Feet believes those actions can make a huge difference.
"That's the spirit of North Dakota. They care about their neighbor," said Manny Ohonme, the organization's Founder, president and CEO. "That's why we want to be able to do this. How can we take it to the next level? By sitting down in front of these young kids, washing their feet, asking them their name, asking them their dreams, and telling these future generations that they are going to change our world."
University of Mary student athletes volunteered with the group on Sunday at Carrie's Kids in Bismarck.
"To do this with the other sports teams, it's really nice to show that school is not just about sports and school, but it's also about giving back to people who need help," said Sheyenne Williams, a member of the U-Mary women's basketball team.
Ohonme founded the organization when he saw a need both in his native country of Nigeria and here in the United States.
"Across the United States, I was learning that parents had to make decisions. Do I buy food? Do I buy medicine? Or do I buy shoes for my kids? And I said here's an injustice, something we can solve," Ohonme explained.
Marauders athletes helped to solve that in the capital city by serving over 400 kids throughout the day.
"It's one of those things, they're kids and it's a Sunday afternoon on their day off and they'd probably rather be doing a bunch of other stuff," said Joe Kittell, U-Mary men's basketball head coach. "But once they get here, it's all smiles. They realize what they're doing, how important it is and it's just really a cool environment."
Kittell says he hopes the student-athletes will continue to give back to the community and represent the University of Mary in a positive way.
"I think our guys and our girls and our programs need to take that responsibility face on and accept the challenge and try to make this place a better place while they're here," Kittell said.
The men's and women's basketball teams, softball and volleyball all volunteered.
Ohonme played basketball at Lake Region State and Concordia-Moorhead, so he has a strong connection to the region. To learn more about Samaritan's Feet, visit www.samaritansfeet.org.