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Wheaton girl collects hundreds of shoes for charity

WHEATON – One day near the end of March, second-grader JoJo Hughes came home from school and started searching the Internet. By the time her dad, Jim, came home from work, she still was typing away.

When her parents asked what had her so interested, the answer was simple: shoes.

She saw that many around the world didn’t have the shoes they needed to get to work, get water or go to school. Plus, most old shoes go straight to the trash can.

“I wanted to keep shoes out of landfills and to help people who don’t have any shoes,” JoJo said.

She began looking into what she could do to help. Soon, she found the charity Soles4Souls, which takes donated new and old shoes. The usable ones go directly to those in need around the world and recycle the worn out ones for projects such as resurfacing or helping people create new resale businesses.

So, she started with a collection goal of 250. And how long until she reached that goal?

“About a week,” the 8-year-old said with a laugh.

Since then, donations from friends and strangers at the Wheaton Sports Center where both her parents work have piled up – literally. She’s gone door to door, hauled bags and packed boxes, and at last count had collected 1,643 pairs of donated shoes.

Jim said that they are looking to turn the collection into a once- or twice-a-year event.

But JoJo’s charitable work doesn’t end there. She has talked to the local
CostCo management about collecting and recycling some of the trash that they put out and takes along her younger brother J.P., 4, and sister McKaileigh, 3.

She also is concerned about oil spills and how they affect her favorite animals – whales.

All that focus and energy on the environment and charity hasn’t translated into knowing what JoJo wants to do when she grows up just yet, but for now she enjoys her art and music classes at Wiesbrook Elementary School in Wheaton.

That passion is pretty constant, said her mom, Debi.

“We get yelled at if we accidentally throw away something that could be put into the recycling bin,” she said.

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