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WIU Student Athlete Making a Difference Around the World

November 8, 2017

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MACOMB, IL – A Western Illinois University student athlete has turned a shoe surplus, collecting in her closet, into a personal service project that will benefit people in need around the world.

Since the beginning of last summer, WIU softball player Kelsey Marlow, a senior psychology major from Terre Haute, IN, has been collecting pairs of shoes for Soles 4 Souls, a Nashville, TN-based non-profit that creates jobs and provide shoes and clothing to those in need. The result of Marlow's efforts is the donation of more than 3,150 pairs of shoes to benefit the organization.

"I was packing to go home after my junior year of college and I realized how many pairs of shoes were collecting at the bottom of my closet," said Marlow. "I began researching organizations I could donate them to and I found Soles 4 Souls. They take any type of shoe, and I like that because not only do the shoes go to people in 127 countries, the organization also provides jobs for people living in third world countries."

The shoes are collected regardless of quality because the Soles 4 Souls organization can recycle the various materials making up each pair.

Marlow said she began collecting shoes from friends and promoted her work on social media. As the pile of donated shoes grew, Marlow began storing them in her parents' garage. About one week ago, her mother transported the shoes collected so far to a distribution center in St. Louis, MO.

"This Project has been a little more time consuming that I expected," she said. "Thankfully my parents have both been huge supporters of me throughout this process and have helped me a lot on it, especially since I left home for the school year".

Marlow is continuing to collect shoes, but is now asking those interested in helping her project to donate money toward storage containers and the organization's travel expenses associated with distributing the shoes. Donations can be made at

After her shoe collection is concluded, Marlow is planning a mission trip to an impoverished country to help distribute the shoes.

"I went on a mission trip to Mexico with my cousin's church after my freshman year of college and it was, hands down, the best experience of my life," said Marlow. "Soles 4 Souls offers opportunities to distribute the shoes, including cleaning people's feet and giving them a pair of shoes. I have tried to embody being a servant leader to others and I hope to make this trip early next summer."

Marlow said she has been amazed at the support and the number of donations she has received. She began the project with a goal of collecting 2,500 pairs of shoes.

"I am thankful to everyone who has helped me on the journey," she said. "Doing things for others fulfills something inside of me. I encourage everyone to experience something like this that they're passionate about. Money is awesome and awareness is appreciated, but actually getting out there and experiencing the work is what will change your heart for the better."

Soles 4 Souls began in 2006, and has distributed more than 30 million pairs of shoes in the United States and around the world. For more information about the organization, visit

Posted By: Jodi Pospeschil (
Office of University Communications & Marketing