Walking To a Better Future
I was diagnosed with Leukemia about 5 years ago. I started undergoing chemo shortly thereafter. One day while sitting in my chair getting treatment, I took a picture of the shoes I was wearing and posted them on Facebook with an inspirational message. Each day thereafter, I posted a different pair of shoes with a different message. I did not want this cancer to define me, so to let everyone know that I was doing well and in good spirits, I continued to post a different pair of shoes. Suddenly, I started receiving shoes from friends and strangers to wear.
It was during one of my sessions that I was inspired to start Zapatos. Call it divine intervention or, my experiencing an epiphany, but something told me, stop posting your shoes and start putting shoes on kids, and that is exactly what I did.
I went to an attorney who incorporated Zapatos and an accountant to get us our nonprofit status.
Zapatos is an all-volunteer nonprofit corporation that provides compassionate help to families in financial crisis by furnishing shoes to school-age boys and girls in San Antonio. Through donations from generous individuals and constant fundraising efforts, we were able to fit over 700 boys and girls with new shoes in 2017. By the end of 2018, I anticipate fitting over 2000 boys and girls with footwear.
San Antonio has one of the highest percentages of children living in poverty in the country. In many schools in San Antonio, as much as up to 92% of the children qualify for free or reduced lunch. This is an indication of the level of poverty in our inner city schools. These kids need shoes in order to participate in sports, ROTC, after school work programs, high school graduation ceremonies and especially daily use. Not having a proper pair of shoes limits their participation in opportunities offered to children by the school system and society.
Zapatos was founded in 2015 and started providing shoes in 2016 when we got our 501(c)(3). Over 300 students were served in 2016 and 703 in 2017. This year, we will fit over 2000 students.
If getting Leukemia was what started me on this journey, I wouldn’t take another road.
Maria Gloria Martinez passed on January 4, 2021 of complications due to leukemia. She is missed by all and her work continues.