N.M. charity gives special kicks for appreciative kids

Founder, guest artists decorate blank canvas shoes for sick, disabled children

Elora Willis celebrates her good luck after receiving shoes from Peach’s Neet Feet. Madison Steiner, founder of the Farmington-based charity that customizes canvas shoes with images for children with special needs, loves delivering her artsy shoes. “Meeting the kids is the best part,” she said. Enlarge photo

Courtesy of Peach’s Neet Feet

Elora Willis celebrates her good luck after receiving shoes from Peach’s Neet Feet. Madison Steiner, founder of the Farmington-based charity that customizes canvas shoes with images for children with special needs, loves delivering her artsy shoes. “Meeting the kids is the best part,” she said.

Sometimes, a new pair of shoes is all it takes to make a child’s day bright.

“I think every child who is experiencing something difficult or challenging is special and should be recognized for that,” said Farmington mother Paula Albers.

Albers’ son Zander is 6 years old and lives with an autism spectrum disorder. He isn’t able to play with other children the way most youngsters his age do.

But a recent gift from an area charity made a difference in Zander’s life – just the reminder of the gift makes Albers emotional.

The charity, Peach’s Neet Feet, is less than a year old. But already its Farmington-based founder, Madison Steiner, has watched it grow.

Steiner buys plain canvas shoes for children with terminal diseases, lifelong disabilities and long-term illnesses.

Then she hand-paints the shoes with custom images, names and designs tailored to each of the children. Volunteer “shoe fairies” do the delivering for Steiner, but when the children are close to home, she likes to hand them out personally.

“I love delivering them,” Steiner said, “Meeting the kids is the best part.”

And personal deliveries are something she’s hoping to do more of, with the help of local philanthropists and generous parents.

Donations that Steiner’s organization receives go entirely to purchasing shoes and supplies. Neither she nor any of her guest artists or “shoe fairies” draws salaries for their work with Peach’s Neet Feet.

They just want to make a difference in the lives of children and would love to have a bigger impact in the Four Corners area, Steiner said.

“We do shoes for a lot of children with cancer, autism, and other long-term and chronic conditions,” Steiner said. “These kids are spending days and months in hospitals and going through treatment for their illnesses, yet they’re always so happy. It reminds you of the little things in life. The good things.”

Among the beneficiaries of the organization’s work was Daniel, a 3-year-old from Denver who died of a rare and incurable form of leukemia earlier this year. His father, Ruben Gomez, remembered the joy his son experienced upon receiving the shoes.

“His eyes just lit up,” Gomez said. “He didn’t even put them on for more than a day, because he was too busy looking at the shoes and studying the artwork.”

After Daniel died in February, Gomez volunteered to work as a guest artist for Peach’s Neet Feet.

“For kids with cancer, there’s no Band-Aid. The only Band-Aid you can give is emotional. It’s like those shoes or a trip to Hawaii, or time playing and coloring. Those distractions are the Band-Aids,” he said.

Other families around the country shared similar stories.

“There are so many organizations out there, and they all do good things. But this is something different,” said Houston-area mother Shannon Stilwel, whose two children live with autism.

herald@durangoherald.com

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