By Jim Gehman
“As ball players, lots of people want you to sign checks for different charities, but you never really see the impact often of the kids you’re actually helping with the mission of the charities up close and personal,” Nikki Berti said.
“But that was an event that really stuck with us for two reasons. One, Tony grew up as one of the kids that would have been served by that program, and I grew up in a small town, sort of middle class, with not a lot of exposure to poverty. So when I saw these kids coming up and they were so enamored with getting a brand new pair of shoes, it just sort of stuck with us. When he retired, that was the one event that stuck out in my mind and I just sort of wanted to incorporate that in (the city where we live, Las Vegas, Nevada).”
They began the Goodie Two Shoes Foundation in 2003. Initially, the plan was to make it an annual event on Make a Difference Day, which is the third Saturday of October, and bring deserving kids to a local Payless Shoe store where they’d select their shoes.
“That’s really what our Foundation is about, empowering kids with choice and allowing them to pick out their very own brand-new pair of shoes,” Nikki said. “We did 225 kids that day. Our second year we did 500 kids. In our third year we did 1,000 kids. And in our fourth year we did 1,250 kids. It just kept growing. On December 2nd, we outfitted our 75,000th child here in Clark County.”
Each Friday during the school year, the Foundation’s mobile unit sets up at a different school where the Berti’s and 75 volunteers work one-on-one with each kid to assure that they receive a properly fitted pair of shoes.
It never gets old.
“I am often still taken aback when a child says, ‘I’ve never, ever had a new pair of shoes. This is the best day of my life.’ They give you a hug, they give you a smile. It’s very moving and it’s very humbling to think that right here in our community, and everywhere around America, there are kids who have never, ever had a new pair of shoes and what that means to them,” Nikki said.
“Every now and then something pops up where I just get moved all over again and I realize the impact of what we’re doing because it’s really just a simple pair of shoes for a lot of people when you’re looking from the outside. But for the kids who are getting this, it’s very exciting for them. It’s maybe their first brand-new pair of shoes or the first time they’ve ever picked out their own pair of shoes without parental oversight or monetary constraints. It’s a pretty impactful moment.”
The Goodie Two Shoes Foundation continues to thrive and outfit thousands of kids in southern Nevada with not only shoes and socks, but other items such as backpacks, school supplies and toothbrush kits because of donations and grants like those given by PAF.
“Our cost to outfit each child with brand-new shoes and socks, which is our actual hard cost as a Foundation, is $25. What that means is we outfit 10,000 kids each and every year and just that cost alone is $250,000. So to add in all of our expenses of getting there and our operating expenses, we have a pretty hefty budget,” Nikki said.
“Having the ability of having the NFLPA support us not only as a family of a former NFL player is huge. Giving back to us as we give back to the community, it’s hugely impactful. It makes such a difference to so many children.
“There’s so many good guys doing so many great things that are former NFL players and this is just an opportunity where we can extend that support from the PAF directly into the communities where the guys live. It matters immensely.”