Students collect flip-flops for Iraqi children

Through April 15, Operation Flip-Flop, Niagara Hall's campus-wide program, is collecting flip-flops and money for Iraqi children who are without shoes.

Boxes and donation jars have been placed in each residence hall with the hopes of collecting 600 pairs of children's sized flip-flops, as well as money to pay for more pairs and for shipping.

Juniors Josh Carney and Sawyer Green, both resident assistants in Niagara, have worked to organize the event with the help of sophomores Courtney Payne, Bridget Greene and Jamie Sharratt, and junior Ethan Papaserge. Carney and Green have also enlisted the help of the Royal Lady Knights as well as Greek organizations on campus. The program has received support from groups outside of Geneseo including Romulus High School, a Syracuse-area school that raised $650 for the cause.

"I think a lot of people are interested because it's a new type of fundraiser," Carney said. "Also, a lot of people can sympathize with little kids without shoes."

"The beauty of it is that it's such a simple idea," he said. "You get a pair of flip-flops and you drop them off in your residence hall and it's done, but you've changed that kid's life completely by protecting his feet."

The donated flip-flops will be sent to Platoon 299 of the U.S. Army stationed in Balad, Iraq, where Payne's boyfriend is currently serving. Each month 150 children, mostly shoeless, visit the army base to spend a day with the soldiers. When Payne learned that soldiers had been giving their flip-flops to the children, she and her family began sending pairs to Iraq.

When Payne approached Carney and Green about bringing the cause to campus, they were immediately interested.

"She said she wanted to do some type of fundraising in Niagara Hall, but then we decided that it would be really cool to make it a campus-wide thing," Green said.

So far, the program has collected an estimated 400 flip-flops, and about $800. Carney and Green plan to purchase new flip-flops in bulk from an online retailer, which they will send straight to Balad. As for the donated pairs, the organizers plan to hold an event where students can help package the shoes and ready them for shipping.

"I think it has been really successful," Green said. "Right now, without Geneseo even involved, we probably have enough money for almost the 600 [pairs]. Anything on top of our 600 is what Geneseo's going to give us."