Putting the ‘sole’ in sole-idarity
Nine-year-old Genesis Pinto’s hardworking feet experienced a rebirth of sorts thanks to the hard work and big hearts of a handful of people from around Washington.
Students from Quincy Innovation Academy, shoemakers from Wenatchee’s American Shoe Shop, and custom-insoles-and-footwear experts from Ferndale’s Super Feet helped build pink, light and yet sturdy shoes for young Genesis, a Monument Elementary School students who suffers from a condition that makes her feet grow faster than the rest of her body.
“Essentially, she makes more red blood vessels than she needs, more tissue than she needs,” her parapro Melissa Reynolds said. Reynolds has been working with her since Genesis was 3. She communicates with signs, smiles and sounds.
The tissue development makes one foot bigger than the other, making regular shoes hard to use, Reynolds said.
“She hasn’t been able to go outside much, because she doesn’t have shoes (for it),” said Jeff Gray of Super Feet. Gray later described Genesis’ new shoes as a moccasin-style shoe with soft leather and a Velcro closure.
Gray said that many people contributed: QIA students helped with the design and toured American Shoe Shop in Wenatchee, Super Feet built a cast of Genesis’ feet from which to make the shoe as well as insoles.
QIA teacher Michael Werner, a former resident of the west side of the state, knew Super Feet’s CEO, and that initiated the contact, Gray said.
“He called our CEO and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got this little girl, and she needs footwear,’” Gray said. “And our CEO said, ‘I’ve got the guy for ya.’”
American Shoe Shop’s Adam Leonardini (Leo-Nar-DEAN-ee) built the shoe.
“After hearing the story about Genesis, I felt convicted (sic) to donate my time, to make sure she got a pair of shoes that were worth putting on her feet,” Leonardini said, adding that it took making three pairs of shoes to land the finished product.
“Making sure that it was sturdy, light and ensuring that it wouldn’t cause her pain,” said Leonardini, naming a few of the challenges of making the shoe. “Lots of different variables.” These shoes should allow for about two years of foot growth, Leonardini said. “And they are rebuildable, so she can continue to fix them as she wears them,” he added.
Genesis walks around, holding on to stuff, her physical therapist Anne Bergman said, and she’s come a long way. She tried the shoes for the first time last week at QIA, in front of several visitors, including her father, Bergman, Werner, Gray, Reynolds, Leonardini, QIA principal Kathie Brown, and Quincy public schools chief John Boyd.
“I feel privileged to have been part of this project,” Germán (Her-MANN) Pinto, Genesis’ dad, said in Spanish. “These are her first shoes since she was 3. Now she can go to the store, she can go many places and step all kinds of terrain. Until now we had to check that it was clean and free of stones.”
A pair of shoes such as the ones Genesis wears would cost several hundreds of dollars, if not more, Gray said.
“Any time you get into custom, it’s a game-changer,” said Gray of the price tag.
The making of the shoes is not a one-time thing for Super Feet, Gray said. They will seek to provide shoes for Genesis for years to come, as her feet grow. As technology improves, 3-D printers may be able to build the entire shoe, Gray said, but that’s still years away from becoming a reality.
“Is the technology there yet? Not quite, but it’s close,” Gray said. “It’s moving fast, but there’s also an expense to get the equipment in.”
Asked how much this pair of shoes was costing Super Feet, Gray said, “I don’t know and I don’t care. If in six months we get this little girl walking unassisted, put a price on that. If we get her walking by herself and we get her some freedom, that’s a win.”
By Sebastian Moraga, firstname.lastname@example.org