Kelowna Shoe Bank

Event raises important funds and awareness about the local need for shoes

For the shoe charity that puts footwear on those in need, it seemed only fitting that its annual fundraiser would give participants a chance to ‘walk a mile in their shoes.’ The Kelowna-based Shoe Bank Canada is hoping nearly 300 people will slide off their flip-flops and sneakers to join in the upcoming Barefoot on the Boardwalk.

“We’re all about putting shoes on people’s feet, and since charities need income to make good things happen,” says Shoe Bank Canada co-founder Jim Belshaw. “There are so many runs and walks in this city, we wanted to do something a little different and make it meaningful to our mission, as well as fun and family-friendly.”

Barefoot on the Boardwalk, which takes place Saturday, Sept. 12, sees participants gather at Kelowna City Park Boardwalk (near the water park at Hot Sands Beach) before kicking off their heels and walking two kilometres barefoot.

Nearly 130 people registered for the inaugural Barefoot on the Boardwalk, which raised critical shipping and operational costs for the Shoe Bank.

“For every dollar we raise, we can put a pair of shoes on someone,” says Belshaw, who reminds participants that if they were to get 10 pledges of just $10, that’s 100 pairs of shoes. “That would go a long, long way.”

Belshaw, also the owner of Roy’s Shoes, opened the shoe bank in 2010, shortly after the earthquake in Haiti. After a shoe drive that saw locals donate nearly 45,000 pairs of shoes, Belshaw opened the warehouse to locals before sending them overseas.

“It became apparent so quickly that the need for footwear locally is so great, and just as important.” Since then the charity has been committed to helping the less fortunate in the Okanagan first before shipping shoe donations overseas, and to facilitate that, in July 2014, the organization opened a shoe bank, set up just like a shoe store, across from the Kelowna Community Food Bank.

Just since then, and with the help of nearly 20 local service agencies guiding the qualifying process and handing out ‘shoe vouchers,’ the shoe bank has provided 4,000 pairs of shoes to those in need in Kelowna. As a national organization now with shoe drives and permanent drop-off sites across BC, Alberta and Ontario, shoes are also shipped to 30 BC communities before excess footwear is shipped to those in need overseas.

The shoes provide warmth, comfort and opportunities: many working poor individuals have been able to secure work with a pair of steel-toed boots or shiny pumps to turn things around for their families.

Barefoot on the Boardwalk is a fun and family-friendly way to make a difference in the community. In additions to balloon animals, music and popcorn, there will also be the ever-popular ‘feet painting’ provided before and after the event by volunteers (though walkers wanting feet painting should arrive early to get in line!). Andy & TJ will also be on hand.

Registration is $20 for individuals or $100 for a team of six friends or coworkers. Each registrant receives a t-shirt and a bottle of water. Register online at or in person at both Fresh Air locations and at Roy’s Shoes until 5 pm Friday Sept. 11. Last-minute registrants are also welcome from 10:30 am on the day.

About Shoe Bank Canada

Shoe Bank Canada collects shoes from individuals and footwear companies and distributes them to people in need in Canada and around the world. The organization now has permanent drop-off locations in cities across BC and Ontario, and the community is also encouraged to donate during annual spring shoe drives.