Kyle Keiffer’s memory is staying alive and well in southeastern Ohio, one pair of shoes at a time.
Kyle died of heart disease in 2016 during surgery. He was 26 years old. Because Kyle loved shoes, his family thought it would be nice to start an annual Christmas tradition of donating shoes in his name to a local elementary school.
Kyle’s mom, Laura Davis, is a senior administrative assistant for AEP Ohio who lives near Athens. The donation effort was a small family affair for the first couple years, with about 40 pairs of new shoes going to needy children at Nelsonville-York Elementary School.
This year, Laura decided to open it up for other people in their community to participate. She reached out to Kyle’s friends in his 2008 graduating class, some emails were sent and the charitable drive was eventually posted on Facebook. That’s when the shoes started pouring in.
In late December, Laura delivered almost 200 pairs of new shoes to teachers at the school. And the boxes kept coming; in fact, Laura says 40 more are scheduled to arrive this week.
“I keep getting sent pictures of little feet. The kids just love the shoes – you won’t believe the smiles,” Laura said. “But the UPS driver probably hates me.”
Ever since then Laura has been spotting children around town wearing the shoes. She recently had to go to urgent care and a little girl waiting in line in front of her appeared to be wearing some.
“They were Kyle’s. I just knew. And it just made me feel so good,” Laura said. “Those are the kind of things that make my day.”
Her community is fairly small and tight-knit – and a lot of people knew Kyle – but Laura was pleasantly surprised by how many jumped at the chance to help.
“Everyone loved Kyle. When we first started the shoes kept coming in. I asked my son, ‘Why do they keep coming?!’ And he said, ‘Mom, Kyle was never mean to anyone.’ I told his story on Facebook and there were more than two hundred comments on it. One person wrote, ‘He was nice to me even when others were not.’ That meant a lot of me. That let me know I did a good job raising my kids.”
Given the enthusiasm, Laura and her family plan to continue the “Kyle’s Kicks” effort – not just at Christmas but possibly year-round. Its impact is evident.
“My grandsons will come to me and say, ‘Grandma, there’s lots of kids with new shoes on!’ ” Laura said. “It’s a good thing. Because down here in southeastern Ohio there are a lot of kids who need them.”