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October 26, 2014

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Zappos donates shoes, backpacks to give kids a boost

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Jeremy Twitchell

Tanya Sotelo looks on while Zappos employee Betty Lopez fits her son, Angel Sotelo, with a new pair of shoes, as part of a back-to-school event for children with cancer and their families.

Zappos backpack drive

Olivia Rotta tries on a new shoe brought to her by a Zappos employee. Launch slideshow »

Beyond the Sun

Zappos

Designer shoes serve as decorations atop cubicle walls at the corporate offices of Zappos.com in Henderson. Launch slideshow »

For almost 200 students who either have cancer or a sibling who does, the prospect of returning to school seemed a little brighter Tuesday morning, thanks to the efforts of Zappos.com employees.

The Henderson-based retailer, which has a stated goal to “create fun and a little weirdness,” tried to ease the burden for families with cancer-stricken children by inviting them out for a mini carnival and then sending each child home with a backpack stuffed with school supplies and a new pair of shoes.

The event was a combined effort with the Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation, which Zappos employees have voted to adopt as their company’s official cause.

“I think it’s just that the foundation serves children and our employees are passionate about children, especially children here in the valley,” Zappos employee Jamie Naughton said. “This foundation reaches so many children.”

Weeks ago, the company announced to employees that it would donate 100 backpacks to children being served by the Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation and called on employees to collect the school supplies to fill them.

The response, Naughton said, was overwhelming. Zappos began with a goal to stuff 100 backpacks; employees donated enough items for 281.

Jeanne Markel, director of casual lifestyle and performance wear, said her department adopted and filled 10 of the backpacks.

“I know that for myself, I have kids, so you really have a soft spot in your heart for them,” Markel said.

At the start of the day, the 281 bags took up a big chunk of Zappos’ cafeteria, where children and their families trickled by throughout the day to collect them and play a few carnival games.

Barbara Porter of the Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation said 197 children signed up to receive a backpack and supplies; the remaining materials will go to the education program the foundation runs for young cancer patients at Sunrise Children’s Medical Center.

Porter said she couldn’t overstate how much the help was appreciated.

“It’s such a huge blessing to the foundation, and especially to the children,” she said. “With the economy being what it is and their children being sick, this is just such a huge help to these families.”

Originally, the event was going to be a few simple games and a quick passing of backpacks. The night before, however, Zappos received 100 pairs of shoes from contacts at Nike, who had learned of the event and wanted to help. That, combined with another 100 pairs Zappos had in storage onsite inspired the company to send each child home with a pair of shoes, as well.

Families lined up and waited for an hour or more to for employees to measure their children’s feet and then search for the right pair of shoes for each child. As they waited, another employee entertained the children with balloon animals.

Christall Rotta, a mother of five who brought her children to the event, said the offerings came at a time when the economy made them especially helpful.

“It’s huge,” she said. “I can’t even put it into words. It’s amazing that there’s a company willing to help like this.”

Another mother, Tanya Sotelo, said her son, Angel, would be better prepared for school with the gifts he received.

“I think there’s more self-confidence, better self esteem, knowing that there are people out there that really care about them,” she said.

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