On Friday, etnies CEO and Sole Technology founder Pierre-André Senizergues joined Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and etnies-sponsored athletes Devine Calloway, Andy Bell, and Brian Kachinsky at the Los Angeles Mission's annual Easter celrebration, donating 2,000 pairs of new shoes to the city's homeless population.
"This was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life," Kachinsky, a member of the etnies BMX team since 2008, told ESPN.com. "It's was very hands-on -- I actually saw Pierre down on his hands and knees fitting shoes for many of the recipients -- and it was great to be out meeting people on their home turf on L.A.'s Skid Row and helping them get back on their feet, pun intended. It was also a chance for us to experience a small glimpse of their lives, and not just the hardships they go through but also the positive attitude they have. I think etnies has always been known as both a planet-friendly brand and a people-friendly brand, and this is just a small way for us to give back to the community."
Senizergues, a freestyle skateboarder who moved from France to California in 1985 to live the dream, says he can still remember a time when he was homeless himself, shortly after arriving in the U.S., and his Easter donation has become an annual event: Over the last 14 years the brand has donated 34,000 pairs of shows through various charity events, according to etnies spokeswoman Anika Haag.
"I believe that a life is defined not by what you accomplish, but by what you give," Senizergues told ESPN.com. "That is why we do what we do. etnies believes in what the Los Angeles Mission is providing the the homeless in Skid Row and we love coming alongside them every year to provide comfort to the soles of the homeless." LA Mission executive director Herb Smith estimates the LA Mission provides 600,000 meals and 120,000 pieces of clothing to the homeless in Los Angeles annually. On Friday homeless people served by LA Mission had their feet cleaned and treated by volunteers, then were given red boxes containing brand new shoes.
Calloway, a member of the etnies Skate team, told ESPN.com, "It was amazing to see etnies helping so many people in need and to see the people being so grateful. All in all it was a great thing to be apart of."
FMX veteran Andy Bell was also on hand for the event and told ESPN.com, "I love doing charity work. It really was amazing to see everyone come together at the LA Mission and help those in need. Seeing how excited the people were to get a hot meal, some medical care and a sweet pair of new etnies was really heartwarming! It is a reminder that no matter how much we can complain about the stresses in our own lives, there are so many people who have it way worse."
Senizergues, a freestyle world champion in the 1980s, joined the etnies shoe company as an engineer and shoe designer in the the late 80s, eventually buying the company and helping to build it into one of the biggest brands in action sports. He now also presides over the brands Emerica, éS Footwear, ThirtyTwo, Altamont, and STI Lab, under the umbrella of Sole Technology, Inc.
"The best way to say thank you and be grateful for what you have is to give back to others," said Mayor Villaraigosa on Friday, thanking Senizergues for his annual donation.