Girl, 11, Gives Love To Orphans One Pair Of Shoes At A Time

By on February 6th, 2014
Girl surrounded by donated shoes

Stacy Nieuwenhuis

Ashlynn Nieuwenhuis "giving love" one pair of shoes at a time

An 11-year-old girl recently partnered with a nonprofit organization to provide shoes for orphans in South America and Africa by organizing a school-wide shoe drive.

When planning for her baptism last year, Ashlynn Nieuwenhuis realized she wanted to do something to give back to society. Rather than receiving gifts at her baptism party, she asked to receive used shoes.

Ashlynn often tells a story of a specific photograph of a young, shoeless girl who spilled boiling water on her feet, causing serious injuries. Ashlynn said the photo made her realize that the children needed help.

“I wanted to do shoes because here in America we throw away a lot of shoes,” she said. “When I saw a picture my mom showed me, it really hurt my heart.”

Stacy Nieuwenhuis, Ashlynn’s mother, had shown her daughter the photos of barefoot orphans on Dando Amor’s website and said it progressed from there. Ashlynn is working with Dando Amor, whose name translates to “Giving Love,” on this project.

“As soon as she saw it, she told me she wanted to be involved,” Nieuwenhuis said. “She told me she would do whatever it took to help.”

One day at Fleming Island Elementary School, Ashlynn told her teacher, Elizabeth Toney, about her baptism party and asked if their fifth-grade class could start collecting shoes at school.

Toney said she told her to first get approval from school administration followed by a plan for collecting the shoes and informing others about the project.

“She took the task head on and soon word spread throughout our grade level,” Toney said. “I just sat back and let her lead the cause, offering a few incentives in class for participation.”

Toney is impressed but not surprised, as this kind of behavior is characteristic of Ashlynn. Both Toney and Ashlynn said they have a special bond because they came from the same school before both transferring to Fleming Island Elementary.

Ashlynn is fully responsible for collecting, cleaning and sorting the shoes. Toney said her hard work makes it obvious that her actions are genuinely about helping others who are less fortunate.

Ashlynn has collected almost 300 pair of shoes in the bins located around her school and is hoping for more. She is also working on making her hometown an official drop off/pickup point for the nationwide Shoes For Love collection trip that will happen April 2-12.

“I want to go to all the places in the world where people need charity,” Ashlynn said. “I want to go on missionary trips and go see all the people there and just kind of, you know, help.”

Nieuwenhuis agreed and said the entire experience has been a catapult for her daughter, generating motivation to do more.

“She’s always been a sensitive kiddo — it’s just who she is — but this one really hit home,” she said. “It just keeps evolving into so much more good.”



This entry was posted in Local and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

More Stories in Local

Thaddeus Bullard sits with homeless couple, Joe and Vivian Mulligan, as he listens to their story.

UF Hall Of Famer And WWE Superstar Feeds The Homeless

Former Gator great Thaddeus Bullard is completing his challenge of 3,000 volunteer hours to the Gator Nation. Along the way, he stopped by the St. Francis House house to help serve food and mingle with the crowd.

IFAS researchers have been involved in an experiment to uncover ways to create tastier and sturdier blueberries.

Florida Researchers Aim To Breed Better Blueberries

Researchers tested 19 different types of blueberries, which were ranked based on overall liking, texture, sweetness, sourness and flavor intensity to determine what type of blueberry people liked and which type would produce consistent results when grown in different environments.

A completed portion of the remediation project consists of green berms sloping downhill towards the wetlands. The brown sections are coconut sodding mats with seeding that will grow from them. Photo by Conor Soper.

Gainesville Landfill Transforms Into Floodplain

A decades-old Gainesville landfill will soon be transformed into a functioning floodplain. The old landfill near the Gainesville Regional Airport has caused erosion and affected the quality of the local water for humans and wildlife. The $1.88 million project to remediate the landfill has been in progress since April, but the landfill has a history dating back more than half a century ago.

A lack of parking spaces at The Grove causes many residents to park illegally, blocking roads. Photo by Kaley Thomas.

Limited Parking For Grove Residents Prompts Towing

Due to a lack of parking spots in the Grove, residents are illegally parking and getting towed.

The Alachua County Commission meeting on Tuesday.

County Programs Receive Word On Funding For 2016

The Alachua County Commission approved the distribution of funds for the CAPP and Choices programs for 2016 fiscal year, putting the future for some local nonprofit agencies in question.

Thank you for your support

WUFT depends on the support of our community — people like you — to help us continue to provide quality programming to North Central Florida.
Become a Sustainer
I want to support FM 89.1/NPR
I want to support Florida's 5/PBS
Donate a Vehicle
Underwriting Payments