On March 30, etnies Footwear brightened spirits and helped the needy by giving away 2,000 pairs of brand new shoes to the homeless at their 16th annual Easter Shoe Giveaway at the Los Angeles Mission.
Located in "skid row" of downtown Los Angeles, Calif., the Los Angeles Mission has been providing assistance to the community's homeless population since the 1930s, offering beds, meals, recovery services and education programs to help people to get back on their feet and care for themselves.
etnies' owner and CEO Pierre-Andre Senizergues, X Games gold medalist Ryan Sheckler and professional skateboarder Cairo Foster, along with members of the etnies BMX team and a handful of volunteers, were on hand to give away 2,000 pairs of shoes, as well as Easter baskets for children at the Mission.
"When I first arrived to California from France, I was homeless living on the streets in Venice Beach. I remember what it was like to feel lonely and like I didn't belong. Since that time, I've always wanted to be able to give back and help others," Senizergues explained.
After six years of donating shoes directly to the LA Mission, Senizergues was asked if etnies would be part of a larger event: to help raise attention to the plight of Los Angeles' homeless, to address their specific needs and to help promote the work of the LA Mission.
"We were happy to lend our support and participate in the event," said Senizergues. "We do it every year because we feel that not only are we helping with a practical need like new shoes, but we are also helping remind people that the homeless exist all around us and we all can do something to help bring joy to their life."
Through his first hand experience as a down-and-out new comer to America, and through his years as a skateboarder, Senizergues knows that skaters and those in need share the same landscape, explaining, "The homeless are a community of people that we as skateboarders interact with all of the time -- in essence, we share the streets."
Senizergues concludes, "Every time our team riders join us at this event, they are amazed at the experience. Not only are they struck by the severe need that exists, they are touched by the impact that a simple gesture of kindness has on a person who is dealing with the challenges of living on the streets. They see that their actions do matter and that they were a part of helping another human being feel that someone cares about them."