Georgia State will face Georgia Southern on Saturday with a lot more than the in-state rivalry on the line. Saturday will also mark the annual ‘Barefoot for Barefeet’ game in which head coach Ron Hunter coaches barefoot to raise awareness for Samaritan’s Feet.
This will mark the 11th-year in a row that Hunter goes without shoes to raise awareness for the 300 million children around the world who will wake up each morning without shoes and in many cases without hope.
Due to the efforts of many, including a lot of Georgia State fans, Samaritan’s Feet has been able to distribute more than 10 million pairs of shoes in the last 10 years.
One of those supporting the cause is Georgia State alum and Panther Athletic Club member John Wilson.
John started supporting the basketball team during Hunter’s first year when he bought season tickets. Ironically the first game he came to was on the night that Hunter went barefoot and according to Wilson “I have been hooked ever since.”
“I think one of the biggest things that attracted me to Samaritan's Feet is the way Coach Hunter and the rest of the staff take this opportunity to complete a very important part of our players’ college experience and education,” Wilson said. “It's an opportunity not every student gets. Everybody (or at least the Alums) knows the value of a degree from GSU in the marketplace. Whatever your field or major, having a degree from GSU brings you instant credibility in your field. Folks know you have, at the very least, a solid foundation of knowledge in your field of study. The basketball players also get a very good understanding of teamwork and how to work on a team to achieve common goals from their experience on the team. But what they get from Samaritan's Feet is different.”
Along with trips to South Africa, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic 18 months ago, the men’s basketball team is once again planning a trip for this summer which will hopefully be announced in the coming weeks. Not only are shoes distributed during the trips, but also hope to many young children.
“From their participation in the Samaritan's feet program the players get an appreciation of our duty and responsibility as citizens of the world to help and care for those less fortunate than ourselves,” Wilson said. “They get a sense of how one person can make a real difference in the lives of real people. That helps complete a truly well-rounded education from GSU. And, just as important, this is something extra that Coach Hunter and his staff do not have to do. Those players would play just as hard if they has never heard of Samaritan's Feet. They do it for the players themselves so they can learn the value of doing for others.”
On January 20 and throughout the year, fans will be encouraged to donate to Samaritan’s Feet just like Mr. Wilson has since attending his first game.
“We are extremely fortunate for the blessings we have,” Hunter said. “Being able to teach our student-athletes that we have a platform to help make the world a better place is extremely important to me. When we go on these trips and they interact with the young children they meet, they are helping change their lives for the better. I greatly appreciate the Georgia State community getting behind me with this cause and helping bring hope to children around the world.”
“Being a Panther Athletic Club member and associated with GSU sports gives me great pride as an alumnus,” Wilson said. “I am extremely proud of the academic success of our teams. Our athletes do things they don't do at many other big universities. They don't make the news by getting arrested, THEY GRADUATE. These are good kids. They are today and tomorrow's leaders. They give me great optimism about our future. If they work as hard in their chosen endeavors as they compete today, we will all be in great shape. Whenever any of our teams compete, I am proud to wear my GSU blue and be associated with them.”
Hats off to your Mr. Wilson and to all the Panther Athletic Club members and fans who support Georgia State and in this case, Samaritan’s Feet, on a yearly basis.