Monday, May 26, 2014

Walk In Beauty - Spring 2014

by Melyssa Holbrook

(Note: Melyssa is the new director of the Walk In Beauty Program)

It was a beautiful Spring morning as my friend (since the 6th grade) Patti and I headed south from Grantsville, Utah, to the Navajo Reservation.  We would be delivering brand new sneakers to 11 schools.  As the new coordinator for Walk In Beauty, I was filled with excitement and also a little anxiety about the unknown.  This position is a huge undertaking.  I really wanted to make sure that everything went smoothly.  Of course, nothing is ever perfect, but I did all that I could to make sure that each school was scheduled, times and places were predetermined with each school coordinator, shoes were labeled and packed, and children were anxiously awaiting their brand new pair of sneakers!

Our first morning would ease us into the 10 day trip as we only had 1 school scheduled for delivery. Each day after that would be 2 schools per day.  30 children at Monument Valley Elementary were excited to receive their own pair of brand new and proper fitting sneakers!  This is something that I think most of us take for granted.  Most of us have many shoes.  Most of us think nothing of buying ourselves a new pair of shoes . . just because.  It has never occurred to many of us that there are children, and adults, right here in our own country, that have never had a brand new pair of shoes, who wear shoes that are too tight, or 2 sizes too large for their feet, or shoes that are so worn, tattered and full of holes that their socks can NEVER stay clean because of all the dirt and debris that is constantly passing through.
The Navajo Reservation encompasses over 27,000 square miles, about the size of the state of West Virginia.  56% live below the poverty level.  Less than 24% complete the 9th grade.  40% have NO electricity.  The area is so vast and remote than many schools on the Navajo Reservation are boarding schools.  Students live at the school Monday thru Thursday and only go home on the weekends.  For families with many children, this is a mixed blessing.  The boarding schools keep their children safe, provide 3 meals a day, laundry services, and homework help.  But it is also very hard having your family separated for so often.

While delivering sneakers for Walk-In-Beauty, we see first-hand the hardships that many Navajos face.  We also see the pride and hard work that so many people are putting into the children and their future.  The children that are receiving our sneakers are appreciative of, and grateful for, this gift.  Not only do these sneakers provide physical comfort, they provide a needed benefit of self-esteem and self-worth.
One child, when entering the room and seeing all the sneakers laid out said “Are these all for us?”
A first grade girl said, “ These are the softest socks I have ever had!”
The excitement and joy in their eyes is enough thanks for Patti and I.  But the children thank us over and over, and a couple children even stop back into the room later on in morning while we are still fitting other children with their brand new sneakers to say Thank You again.

A BIG “Thank You” to Patricia Bigman for being such a huge help and coordinating a smooth delivery at Monument Valley Elementary School!

Day 2 brought us to Canyon de Chelly Elementary and Tsaile Public School where we matched 61 pair of sneakers with 61 smiling faces.
At Tsaile, a 2nd grade boy struggled to tie his sneakers.  After spending a few minutes showing him the “Bunny ears” method of shoe-lace tying, he was so happy to have done it himself.  “Thanks for showing me how to tie my shoes”, he said.  One girl ran back into the family coordinator room about a half hour after leaving wearing her shoes.  She was almost screaming … “I love these shoes!!!  I don’t ever want to take them off!””
These 2 boys were looking pretty proud in their new sneakers.
Delivery Day #3 found us at Many Farms and Pinon.

Apparently we had brought with us some of the softest socks known to man!  There were so many comments just about the socks . . .
“These socks are so cushy”
“These are the most comfortable socks I have ever worn!”
“Wow!  These socks are soft!”
“I love these socks!”

Of course, the sneakers get rave reviews as well …..
“I don’t ever want to get these sneakers dirty!”
“I’m going to save these for a special occasion”
“These sneakers are so comfortable, they might put my feet to sleep”
“These are awesome!  They massage my legs even!”
“I just hope they can make me run faster than the dogs”

Delivery Day #4 was a scavenger hunt just for Patti and I to find the schools!!!  Both Rocky Ridge and Black Mesa Schools are on dirt roads.  I think we drove over 100 miles on dirt roads that day!  But we didn’t mind at all!  The scenery is absolutely stunning.  Plus we saw herds of sheep. Some cows and horses may have been trying to stop us from our duties by blocking the road, and we even saw 2 pronghorn!  After getting a little dusty, we arrived to deliver 50 pair of sneakers to very deserving a happy children.
Delivery Day #5 we arrived at Dilkon and Seba Dalkai.  We were lucky enough to arrive at Seba Dalkai while they were having a fundraiser and selling Navajo Tacos!  YUM!!!!
So after getting all the children fitted into the right sized sneakers and getting the library put back in order from our rearranging, we enjoyed a delicious lunch outside in the sunshine!  Our trip had provided us with perfect weather, a little windy on some days, but sunny and warm.
Not only were these sneakers full of holes and falling apart … they were about 2 inches too long for the 5th grade boy that was wearing them.  Had said that he had been wearing them all school year, and that he had gotten them from his brother.  He was full of smiles when he left wearing his new sneakers.
Our last day was spent at Leupp and Little Singer.

A 1st grade girl, after trying on her sneakers said, “Do I get to keep these?”

A 3rd grade boy was so excited with his sneakers, he said “I want to run until I find gold or iron!”

One of the faculty at Little Singer gave us school t-shirts as a thank you for bringing sneakers to their students.  It was a nice surprise, since we were there to give, not receive.  The Navajo people are a very generous and kind-hearted people.  It's always so heartwarming to be a part of something so deserving and needed as the Walk-In-Beauty Program, and Adopt-A-Native-Elder.  At EVERY school, someone always thanked us for our generosity, the bus driver, security staff, receptionist, the principal ….   Good deeds make everyone feel good!
I look forward to seeing many more happy faces next Fall!
If you wish to contact to Walk-In-Beauty, please email me (Melyssa) at
Donations can be sent to:
Adopt-A-Native-Elder, PO Box 3401,  Park City, Utah  84060 or can be made through our web site.