IT TAKES A VILLAGE

07/12/2016 11:10 pm ET Updated Jul 13, 2016

Hav A Sole delivers new shoes to the kids at the Police Activities League, a program that cultivates a connection between police officers and youth.

Diego is thrilled to receive his first pair of basketball shoes from Hav A Sole
Rikki Mendias
Diego is thrilled to receive his first pair of basketball shoes from Hav A Sole

 Like so many people in the United States last week, I was devastated, as a police officer killed yet, another African American. Why does this keep happening, I asked myself? And what can I do to make it stop? And when the pendulum swung the other way, and five police officers were killed in Dallas, I was equally as sad. 

Unable to find adequate answers that would explain any of it, I became frustrated and resentful at what is happening in our country.  Fortunately, I had committed to helping my son, Rikki Mendias, who was busy organizing a shoe drive for the kids at PAL. PAL, the Police Activities League is a youth crime prevention program that relies on education and recreational activities to cement a bond between police officers and the youth in the community.

Rikki Mendias, founder of Hav A Sole talking to SMPD 
Nisalda Gonzalez
Rikki Mendias, founder of Hav A Sole talking to SMPD 

Hav A Sole, my son’s non-profit organization, was started two years ago, and since then, he and his friends have given away more than 7000 pairs of sneakers to those in need. But what is really special about this event, is back in the early nineties, when I was getting sober and lived at CLARE women and children’s center with Rikki, he would spend hours playing basketball, while I went to work at my new job.  Needless to say, there is a deep satisfaction for both of us, having come full circle, that we get to do a shoe giveaway at PAL. 

 While Hav A Sole may be the vehicle to deliver the shoes, there were a lot of moving parts. Gigi Davis from Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce connected us with PAL employee, Karen Humphrey, who provided  the names and sizes of each child in their program. As soon as the list went up on social media, donations came pouring in from NiceKicks.com, Nike Outlets, Instagram and Nike Headquarters as well. Cathi, of Cathi Carlton Casting, organized a massive shoe drive, which was magical to watch, as more shoes came flooding in. And last but not least, the amazing staff of Polaris Teen Center, a facility for adolescents struggling with mental health issues, showed their love by providing lunch for everyone who was there.   

Pizza provided by Polaris Teen Center
Nisalda Gonzalez
Pizza provided by Polaris Teen Center

By the end of the day, all the kids at PAL had eaten, played basketball and received a new pair of shoes. Everyone agreed, the event was a huge success. But beyond all that, there was something else that happened here, something you can’t lace up or put on your feet.  Although it wasn’t part of the plan, a healing took place between the volunteers, the children, and the police. Perhaps the answer I was looking for was right in front of me all along.  And that is when a community comes together to serve, only then, will we begin to know peace.

Courtney Rossel makes one young boy very happy with a new pair of Nikes
RIkki Mendias
Courtney Rossel makes one young boy very happy with a new pair of Nikes
Cathi Carlton takes her time making sure the shoe fits properly.
Rikki Mendias
Cathi Carlton takes her time making sure the shoe fits properly.
The Team from Polaris Teen Center, Marcela Rondani, Ari Brown, Wendy Adamson and Michelle Butler gave out shoes and provided
Nisalda Gonzalez
The Team from Polaris Teen Center, Marcela Rondani, Ari Brown, Wendy Adamson and Michelle Butler gave out shoes and provided food.
Hav A Sole creates a retail experience for each child
Rikki Mendias
Hav A Sole creates a retail experience for each child
Marcela Rondani, Michelle Butler, Wendy Adamson, Officer Brown & Karen Humphrey of PAL
Rikki Mendias playing ball in his old gym with PAL kids
Nisalda Gonzalez
Rikki Mendias playing ball in his old gym with PAL kids
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