Kestly O’Neill, left, and Lindsey Kimpler have spent the summer collecting shoes to help fund a medical mission trip through VIDA Volunteer in Guatemala scheduled in January 2021 (Submitted/The Report).

Central graduates raising funds through shoe donation drive

By Jason Arndt
Editor

When Kestly O’Neill embarked on a medical mission trip in January to Guatemala with VIDA Volunteer, a nonprofit group dedicated to serving underserved communities, the Westosha Central High School graduate felt compelled to return in January 2021.

But this time, O’Neill plans to head back to Guatemala alongside Lindsey Kimpler, who graduated from Westosha Central with O’Neill in 2017. The former Westosha Central students both attend University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

O’Neill, a biology major with a minor in chemistry, said the mission trip was an eye-opening learning experience, which included garnering more knowledge about the dental industry.

“It’s an incredibly rewarding and life changing trip.”

For Kimpler, an exercise science major on the pre-professional track, she wants to have the same experience as O’Neill.

Additionally, Kimpler was compelled to join O’Neill because of the positive feedback.

“It’s a unique opportunity to expand my knowledge of the world and see that everything isn’t picture perfect. I have heard many great things about this trip from friends that have previously attended, and I think it will be life changing.”

The trip, however, comes with a cost and O’Neill learned about a shoe donation drive through a person she worked with in Guatemala.

According to O’Neill, the person used funds2orgs, which is a nonprofit group specializing in shoe fundraisers.

Fundraising participants collect gently worn, used and new shoes, and in turn, funds2org will pick up for distribution in other countries, according to the fundraising website.

“Aside from it helping pay for both of our trips, it’s also a really good cause. All of the shoes that get collected then get redistributed to a variety of 24 underdeveloped counties for families to sell to make a profit,” said O’Neill.

The two former Westosha Central students have since reached out to area businesses, individuals, friends, family and distributed flyers around the community asking for shoe donations.

As of last week, they have collected about 3,520 pairs of shoes, and continue to accept donations until Aug. 17.

O’Neill, of Bristol, said most of the shoes have come from Burn Boot Camp in Kenosha and Mt. Pleasant.

“We put bins there when the shoe drive first started and have probably received over 1,000 pairs between the two gyms,” she said. “It also helps that both of our families have been super supportive with helping us pick up shoes, bag, and spread the word.”

Kimpler, meanwhile, encourages people to clean out their closets and donate any shoes they don’t need anymore by arranging a pick-up time with either of them.

O’Neill, who focuses on pre-dental studies, looks to enroll at a dental school upon graduating from UW-La Crosse.

Kimpler, of Paddock Lake, plans to apply to physician assistant graduate school after she graduates.

To set up a pick-up time, email kimpler.lindsey@uwlax.edu or oneill.kestly@uwlax.edu.

 
 

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