As the annual Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and National Day of Service quickly approaches, it also marks the time of year when Georgia State head coach Ron Hunter will coach a game barefoot to raise awareness for Samaritan’s Feet.
This year Hunter will coach without shoes when the Panthers take on in-state rival Georgia Southern on Jan. 20. It will mark the 11th-straight year that Hunter will leave his shoes in the locker room looking to raise awareness for the 300 million children around the world who live without shoes every day.
“Anyone who knows me understands why Samaritan’s Feet has become such a huge part of my life,” Hunter said. “What we are doing is impacting the lives of millions of children and as much as the shoes mean to them, the hope that we are giving them is even more valuable. Hope is a powerful thing.”
Over the years Georgia State has done everything from wearing orange jerseys to having a barefoot walk on campus to raise awareness for the cause, but the one constant every year is that the team Hunter is coaching wins the game. Hunter is 10-0 when coaching barefoot, including a 6-0 mark at GSU.
“One of the things I am most proud of in my coaching career is that all of my teams have rallied around this cause since I began working with Samaritan’s Feet more than 10 years ago,” Hunter said. “Our players, coaches, support staff and administration know how important this is to me and the children around the world who we can help.
“As coaches, we are also teachers. And during the four or five years that we have these young men in our program, we need to teach them that the world is about more than basketball. It is how can we help others with the platform we have to make the world a better place.”
Part of that has been traveling to different parts of the world to distribute shoes and hope during the summer. Since Hunter’s arrival at Georgia State, that Panthers have been to South Africa, Costa Rica and most recently the Dominican Republic to work with Samaritan’s Feet. Plans are in the works to take the team on another trip this August and distribute thousands of pairs of shoes and hope to those who may not have either when they wake up in the morning.
“I have said this before, but I could win every game we play, even win a national championship, but the smile on the face of a child when we give them a pair of shoes and hope is the most valuable thing to me and can never be topped.”