On the field, Tennessee Titans safety Chris Hope is a lean, mean defensive machine. His aggressive approach on the gridiron tied him for third on the team in 2009 for tackles (81) and interceptions (3). Hope carries his unwavering commitment off the field, too, tackling the feet of those in need.
No one gets hurts, though. In fact, quite the opposite. Hope spreads hope across the faces (and soles) of the needy, such as people at the Nashville Men’s Shelter, where he helped put shoes and socks on all the men. The eight-year NFL veteran’s efforts were conjoined with Nashville-based Soles4Souls, a non-profit dedicated to delivering new and gently worn shoes around the U.S. and across the globe.
“All the guys [there] were flabbergasted that he would do that,” says Chris Carmichael, director of communications for Soles4Souls. “He [didn’t] just hang out for a few minutes and wave to the crowd. He grabbed shoes, helped pack and sort, and got down for the people who came in and put [the shoes on their feet].”
Hope is not the only Titan engaging in this worthwhile endeavor. RB Chris Brown, All-Pro DE Jevon Kearse and head Coach Jeff Fisher are all involved with the five-year-old non-profit.
Since 2005, Soles4Souls has distributed more than seven million pairs of shoes (about one donation every nine seconds) in more than 125 countries, including Haiti. Carmichael reports that after the devastating earthquake, Soles4Souls immediately got to work, partnering with several other non-profits in the Haiti Relief Fund, like Operation Compassion, to help provide a total solution with shoes, food, water, medical supplies, tents, flashlights and even baby products.
Soles4Souls’ friends, a lengthy list of athletes and celebrities, immediately got involved too. For example, according to Carmichael, Washington Wizards All-Star forward Antawn Jamison is working on a campaign to collect shoes by asking his contacts among fans and supporters to donate shoes at local retailers, one of the many ways shoes are received.
Aside from pro athletes, Soles4Souls support comes from a multitude of sources, including retailers, churches, schools, civic groups and, of course, footwear companies. Carmichael says, “adidas is a big supporter.” The company made a significant contribution during Soles4Souls’ “Barefoot Friday” last June in Portland, Ore. Of the 5,000 pairs of shoes donated, adidas contributed 1,000, along with 3,000 pairs of socks—plus, 75 of their employees volunteered for the day’s fundraiser.
“The mission is to provide as many free shoes as possible to people in need,” Carmichael says.
There are many ways to follow in Soles4Souls’ footsteps. If you’re interested in taking action, either individually or with your teammates, one of the best ways to get involved is by hosting a fundraiser or shoe drive at your school. Check out soles4souls.org to find out how.