Los Angeles Sparks All-Star guard Chelsea Gray held her second annual “Gray Matters Shoe Giveaway” at Safe Place for Youth last Thursday to provide shoes to homeless youth in the area. More than 400 pairs of shoes were given away, mostly basketball shoes, but there were plenty of shoes for a number of occasions.
As a basketball player, Gray knows the importance of shoes and wanted to help others who may not be fortunate to get a new pair.
“A lot of people have just one pair of shoes, and I have the luxury of having many pairs of shoes,” said Gray, 25, a member of SPY’s advisory board of directors. “And after every season, you see a bunch of shoes that go unused, they go for signing or whatever the case may be. I was like, you know what, there are people out here who need shoes. Rather than just food and clothes, they need actual shoes to be able to walk around in.”
Gray donated some of her own “kicks” and was also given shoes to donate by her sponsor Adidas. In addition, the Sparks front office and players Jantel Lavender and Candace Parker helped hand out shoes. Like Gray, SPY director Alison Hearst knows how essential shoes can be.
“Somebody could be critical and say, ‘What does a pair of sneakers do?’” Hearst said. “It does everything. Shoes are huge. We have young people showing up with the wrong-sized shoes on, and you have to remember that the majority of people who are street-based are doing a ton more walking than we are, and they’re very much relying on their feet. So shoes are incredibly important, especially if you’ve got ill-fitting shoes.”
Sparks’ center Jantel Lavender joined Gray for the event and both were constantly telling people, “Try them on! Make sure it fits.” There were so many shoes, some were able to get a second pair.
“I’m able to do what I (love to) do each and every day,” Gray said. “Wake up and know that you’re going to live your dream. But you know a lot of people don’t have the luxury to be able to do that. I’m fortunate enough to be able to give back, and the way I give back is with what I’m passionate about – there are a lot of basketball shoes here.”
Chelsea’s event came in the same week that Nneka Ogwumike won the 2018 WNBA Community Assist Award, another example of the Sparks unparalleled community service.
Thank you to all who donated and were part of this great event.