LHS alumni helping area youth lace up for the new school year

photo by: Contributed photo

JD Woods (left) and Anthony Harvey Jr. (right) formed Kicks 4 Kids, an annual shoe drive, for Lawrence area kids as a back-to-school event beginning in 2020.

Thanks to a couple of Lawrence High alumni and former college athletes, area kids in need of shoes will be able to get a free pair this month at the fourth annual “Kicks 4 Kids” event at LHS.

The shoe drive is the brainchild of LHS alumni Anthony Harvey Jr. and JD Woods, and since its start in 2020 it’s given away hundreds of pairs of shoes and drawn donations from community organizations, area college teams and even a big-time professional sports franchise.

This year’s event is 9 a.m. Aug. 19 in the LHS south parking lot and will feature all kinds of shoes — sneakers, high tops, flip-flops and cowboy boots — as well as some non-footwear items that kids might need, like backpacks. No registration is required; families can just show up at the school, and the giveaway will last until the shoes run out, which Harvey said might be by around noon.

“It’s (gone) up every year,” Harvey said. “I think last year we (gave away) about 300 pairs of shoes … Every single year we sell out and there hasn’t been a carryover.”

When they put their first shoe drive together in 2020, Harvey and Woods were still in college and had no idea Kicks 4 Kids would grow to what it is today. They were initially hoping to set up three to five kids with multiple pairs of shoes for the school year. But at that very first event, they were able to give away more than 150 pairs of shoes to area kids.

For the second event, Harvey had to start storing donations in his parents’ garage. And in between their annual giveaways, they’ve also donated shoes to area high schools, middle schools and the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence.

“We learned the last four years that the little things turn into big things really, really fast,” Woods said.

photo by: Contributed photo

Anthony Harvey Jr. (left) helps a student find his shoe size during a Kicks 4 Kids event during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The priority, Harvey and Woods agree, is to keep everything about the event free. To do so, they’ve used their connections around town to keep the donations flowing year after year.

And since both Harvey and Woods have backgrounds in sports — Woods set an NAIA record for career rushing yards with 6,666 as a running back at Baker University, and Harvey played basketball at Newman University and is currently an assistant hoops coach at LHS — it’s no surprise that some of their donations come from universities and sports teams.

Just last week, the Kansas women’s basketball team made the first official donation of 2023, and Haskell and Baker universities have also donated. Athletes from all over the area have attended previous Kicks 4 Kids events.

And bigger names have contributed, too — including Major League Baseball’s Colorado Rockies. Two winters ago, the Rockies reached out to Harvey and Woods with an interest in providing sneakers and other resources for the project during both the winter and the summer months.

But if you ask Kicks 4 Kids’ creators, the real stars of the event are the volunteers behind the scenes who put it all together. This year’s event will take about 10 to 20 volunteers to pull off, and Woods and Harvey said one in particular deserves special thanks — Jaycee Mountain, an old friend of theirs who also attended LHS and who was especially crucial in the event’s early years.

“Without Jaycee, this event never would’ve happened,” Woods said. “She made all this happen behind the scenes. She never wants any credit, but she was the backbone, recording everything, doing the flyers, running the table and everything.”

It all adds up to a way to help kids and families in need, just in time for the new school year.

“Some people, you don’t get the opportunity that Anthony and I had,” Woods said. “That played a part in my mind that we could give back to the community.”

And Harvey said: “To see those moms and dads relieved after they’ve come out and that they don’t have to buy their kids four and five pairs of shoes for a year, that’s everything JD and I could’ve asked for.”

photo by: Contributed photo

Kicks 4 Kids, an event formed by two Lawrence High alumni, has served the community for nearly four years.


Welcome to the new LJWorld.com. Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.