In The News- Star Ledger
11-year-old Joe Butler vividly remembers the scene of wrestlers sharing wrestling shoes at a national-level tournament last spring.
"I remember seeing the wrestlers sharing shoes and wondered, 'Why are they doing that?' " Butler said. "I thought about what I could do to help. I asked my father why they didn't have their own shoes, he gave me the reason why and I asked him if we could start a company to help donate shoes for them."
Butler's ambition led to the formation of Wrestle In My Shoes, a non-profit organization which donates wrestling shoes to wrestlers who cannot afford them.
Since starting Wrestle In My Shoes one year ago, Butler's company has donated over 700 pairs of shoes, equivalent to $40,000 of merchandise.
Any wrestler can donate shoes and Wrestle In My Shoes will cover the cost of shipping to New Jersey and shipping back out to the shoes' recepients.
"We've had an overwhelming amount of support for what we've been trying to do," Joe's father Joe said. "Joe Pollard at Rutgers was a huge help for us. He was one of our initial donors. He helped us get about 20 pairs of wrestling shoes to donate. Not from the school, but from the kids' collections. I sometimes wonder how many district, region and state medals had been won in those shoes."
"Also Gary Mezzacapo of Iron Horse. He came and dropped off 40 singlets and 40 pairs of shoes at my doorstep without being asked or anything."
Most of the shoes, Mr. Butler said, end up in the midwest.
"We've dealt a lot with charter school systems," Mr. Butler said. "We've done a lot with schools out in the midwest. The shoes are going out to Clevland and Cincinatti, Ohio. We've done a lot in Minneapolis as well."
"We actually were able to ship a pair of shoes out to the midwest, this poor kid lives with his grandmother. His father is in jail for murdering his mother. He was a two-time state champion and had been wearing the same shoes he had worn since eighth grade. We were able to send some shoes out to him."
Joe Butler (left) with Jake Herbert
The Butlers' cause has drawn national attention. Shortly after the company launched, it obtained a partnership with Flips Wrestling headphones. Flips has helped Wrestle In My Shoes team up with Olympians Coleman Scott and Jake Herbert, among other notable figures in the wrestling community.
"It feels great," Joe said. "It feels great to be able to help these kids."