Michael Hankins knows kids care how they look on their first day of school.
“If they don’t look good, they don’t feel good,” he said Saturday.
That’s why he and some of his friends purchased 44 pairs of new shoes and other gifts and handed them out to deserving youth Saturday on Tacoma’s Hilltop.
These weren’t just any shoes. They were Nike Air Force 1 sneakers.
“The nice shoe,” Hankins said. “We want them to look good on the first day of school.”
Hankins runs the nonprofit Motivating Our Children 2 Honor Academics — MOCHA — a group dedicated to getting African American youth into college.
MOCHA has been operating for 11 years, Hankins said. This is their second shoe giveaway.
Hankins estimated they spent $2,400 for the shoes, socks and other supplies.
The event is held in memory of Hankins’ father, Harold, a longtime local sports coach.
“He gave back to a lot of youth in the community,” Hankins said. “I’m just carrying on the legacy.”
Hankins could have held Saturday’s event in a community center or park but instead he planted a metaphorical flag at a Hilltop intersection — South 25th and South J streets — where he’s lived 17 years.
There’s been an uptick in shootings across the city and he wanted a public location for his event. It’s his way of showing the city that good is being done.
It’s also where, a few years ago, he noticed neighborhood kids needing new shoes.
“I always look down low,” he said.
The children he and his group chose as recipients come from across Pierce County.
After names are gathered, Hankins goes shopping.
“I get together with a couple of family members, a couple of my homeboys, and we make it happen,” he said.
Some of the kids got shoes because they are destined for great things. Others, they just need new shoes.
“Unfortunately, some parents don’t have the money to provide new stuff,” he said.
A barbecue and live DJ livened up the party Saturday as it played out
Seven members of Vision Step Team performed at the party. Each of the girls, captains of their own separate teams, also received a pair of shoes.
“Normally, we perform for bags of chips,” said founder and coach Chelsea McElroy.
In October, members of MOCHA are chaperoning a group of high school students on a tour of HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities.) It’s another way the group mentors and inspires youth.
On Saturday, Hankins’ yard was filled with expectant kids from across all grade levels.
Hankins called them to attention.
He told boys to respect girls. He told everyone told to respect mothers.
“Without family, you don’t have nothing,” Hankins said.
Then, each youth was called forward to receive their shoes.
Majesty Irving, 15, kept a firm grip on his new Nikes.
“They’re fresh white,” Irving said of the all-white shoes.
The Lincoln High School sophomore said the giveaway is an example of men exhibiting leadership.
“It shows love in our community,” Irving said. “No matter where you come from, you can help out your community.”
Irving said he’ll pay the generosity forward.
“It’s bigger than me,” he said.