Shoes level playing field

By Vaimoana Tapaleao

Charity which provides footwear for schoolchildren helps kids play favourite sports

Leonie Leaver says many of today's top athletes had no sports gear when they started out. Photo / Natalie Slade
Leonie Leaver says many of today's top athletes had no sports gear when they started out. Photo / Natalie Slade

When a school netball coach had kids turning up to trials in bare feet, she knew she had to do something.

High school netball coach and former Silver Fern Leonie Leaver started bringing her own sports shoes and asking friends and family members to do the same.

"I took on a role at One Tree Hill College a few years ago and when the kids came to trials, some of them came with no shoes or the wrong kinds of shoes - like slippers," she said.

Almost five years on, Leaver is now the founder and trustee of the Shoes for Kids charitable trust, which gives sports shoes to students who may not be able to afford them.

Leaver's trust is one of 12 winning charities in this year's Auckland Airport 12 days of Christmas project; now in its sixth year.

The trust will receive $10,000, which they will use to buy up to 200 pairs of sports shoes for children from a variety of primary and intermediate schools in Auckland.

Leaver acknowledged that sports shoes could be very expensive and for many families were considered a luxury item they just could not afford.

"That's why we started this whole thing. We want these kids to start walking the road - playing sport.

"A lot of them are embarrassed to come out to try-outs because they don't have shoes. This is their start."

Leaver said she was a prime example of someone who had struggled when she first started playing netball.

"I can tell you, a lot of professional athletes now had nothing - no shoes, gear and all that. This is just a way of making sure every child has a chance to make it."

Another unique feature of the trust is that it was connected with some of the country's top schools - whose students regularly donated pairs of shoes for fellow students from other schools.

Auckland Airport spokesman Charles Spillane said the charity was doing good things within the community.

"We're delighted that through this programme, we can help provide children with the opportunity to get involved in sport - something that every New Zealander should have the chance to do."


• Auckland Airport is giving away $120,000 to New Zealand charities as part of its 12 Days of Christmas initiative this year. The Herald is profiling each of the winning charities.

- NZ Herald