With smiles all around and tears of happiness, “There are no dry eyes in Magoo’s Shoes,” said Simon Dixon, executive director of the nonprofit that provides new shoes to underprivileged kids in Santa Barbara. Teaming up with Deckers, Dixon was able to expand the program to five elementary schools, reaching 138 students. Each student — handpicked by school secretaries who maintain close relationships with the kids and their families — was chosen earlier this summer based on their economic situation.
Magoo’s Shoes was created more than 10 years ago by Washington Elementary teacher Tia Blickley, who granted the most economically disadvantaged students a brand-new pair of shoes. After her leave of absence in 2010, Dixon, who became the school’s Parent-Teacher Organization president a year later, took on leadership of the program.
Determined to get more students “up and running,” Dixon reached out to Stephen Coyne, a senior manager at Deckers, who offered Magoo’s Shoes a 50 percent discount. After numerous fundraisers, donations — some from as far away as Hong Kong and the United Kingdom — and a successful GoFundMe drive, Dixon raised enough money to nearly double the amount of recipient kids right off the bat, giving each one a pair of their choosing.
When asked why shoes are so important to the kids, Dixon explained that a handful of them wore hand-me-downs one or two sizes too small, and some had never before worn brand-new shoes. “If you really look, you see a lot of need in Santa Barbara,” Dixon said, emphasizing the lack of awareness for underprivileged families in a well-off city like Santa Barbara. By next year, Dixon hopes to expand to 10 elementary schools and reach as many as 500 children.