Swanton 12-year-old spearheads sports cleat donation program

Published: Aug. 26, 2022 at 5:48 PM EDT
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SWANTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Athletes know how important it is to have the right equipment, from head to toe. One girl in Swanton is helping kids make sure they have the shoes they need to succeed.

Twelve-year-old Emily Walke spends a lot of time scrubbing when she’s not playing sports. “I play soccer and I snowboard,” she said.

She’s scrubbing cleats -- not just for herself but for everyone else who might need them. “For a person like me who has bad ankles, it’s good to have a good pair of cleats and good laces. Make sure you don’t fall and slip on yourself.”

Walke started Cleats 4 Feet about a year ago. She got the idea from a similar program in Watertown, New York. “Noticed some kids using different cleats for different sports, such as softball for soccer, and we had the idea of bringing that business here to Vermont,” Walke said.

She lived in northern New York up until 2019 and recalls a time when she made use of the cleat donations for indoor soccer. “Romi, who was the person that did the Cleats For Feet back in New York, she actually outfitted me for cleats when I was like seven,” Walke said. Passing the torch, Romi just gave Emily about 600 pairs of cleats before heading off to college -- which is good, because Emily says she’s seen an uptick in need. “Up here, there was an Olympia Sports and they closed it down, so I’ve been busy a lot.”

She has given out about 50 pairs of cleats so far since the Vermont program began. Stockpiled in her garage and basement are cleats in every size, color, and sport. “Makes me feel like I’ve accomplished a lot during this only one year,” Walke said.

Donations come from local rec centers and camps. She says there are some bins around Franklin County for donations as well. As she keeps handing pairs out, she says people on the receiving end are always spreading the good word, something she hopes she can keep up with until she heads off to college, too. “I definitely feel like I’ve helped the community a lot and I want to keep doing it,” Walke said.