ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — A nonprofit in Rockford is working to eliminate bullying one pair of sneakers at a time.
It comes at a time when most kids refuse to even go to school because of what they are wearing.
In the age of social media, everything is under scrutiny: from how you wear your hair down to what shoes you have on.
For some kids across the Stateline, not wearing the right pair of shoes could lead to serious bullying, but one Rockford millennial and business owner is tossing his shoes in the ring to prevent that.
Marquez Beeks, CEO of Touching Soles, is stopping bullying with a fresh pair of sneakers.
“It’s definitely a self-esteem thing,” Beeks said. “You got kids who are getting bullied, and they don’t have the means to get nice things.”
Beeks grew up in Rockford and 25 years later he’s giving back.
“It’s kind of a cognitive thing with kids and shoes and shoes are kind of a universal thing as well too, so that’s one of the things I wanted to push forward,” Beek said. “Just to go into the schools and be a positive role model because I know we’re lacking that.”
Beeks path to becoming a role model today was helped along by a man he’s known since he was about 7 years old, Tim Bailey.
Tim Bailey is the Senior Advisor at Touching Soles. Bailey says he’s impressed to see the messages he instilled in Beeks being passed on to the next generation.
“Now, looking at him being able to now reach out his hand and others grab his hand, and he can actually now become that advisor that I was for him back when he was that age, so it’s more so just one hand watch the other,” Bailey said.
He says having that strong male mentor early in life puts you on the right track to succeed later in life.
“It’s important for young black men to have mentors within their life and have somebody that’s encouraging uplifting, motivating and showing you the right steps,” Bailey said.
It’s one quality even Mayor Tom McNamara had to applaud.
“To me, it’s the message he provides when he gives these shoes out,” McNamara said. “It’s about what you can be when you grow up and to me it’s really inspiring and I wish we could have 147,000 Marquezes in our community.”
Each pair of shoes given out are paid for entirely by donations, so more help is needed from you.
To make a donation, you can contact Marquez Beeks through Instagram or email. His username is @TouchingSolesInc and the email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
(In above video, Touching Soles is incorrectly spelled “souls”. We regret this error).