Dr. Phillip Shirley's Shoe Santa Project

Cor Karaffa, Kim Huser, JoAnn Karaffa Owens, Chris Graham, John Karaffa

December 11, 2017

Early this snowy morning, the Shoe Santa made his list and checked it twice.  He enlisted a full crew of elves and invited them to Anderson’s Shoe Carnival in the quiet hour before the store opened to the public.

One by one, children’s names, ages, and shoe sizes were called out.  Shoe Santa’s elves scurried about, seeking the right size and best style for each child.  The elves found tiny shoes, large shoes, glittery shoes, and rugged shoes and labeled each with a child’s name.  They carried stacks of shoes to a tall silver rack where Shoe Carnival staff inspected each pair to ensure they were properly matched.  Shoe Santa reminisced, “One year, I got ice skates for Christmas, and got two right skates.  Boy.  That was a bummer!”

As Shoe Santa reached the end of his list, Shoe Carnival staff assigned all eligible discounts and helped load the boxes into the Shoe Santa’s large white pickup truck.  At the end of this expedition, the Shoe Santa had purchased 92 pairs of shoes for children in need.

Shoe Santa and his elves wrap each shoe box and ensure delivery in time for Christmas.  The families who receive shoes from are heartened by the gifts.  For a rare moment, they don’t have to make a calculated choice between buying new shoes for their child’s growing feet and new jeans for their longer legs.  Shoe Santa’s generosity offers encouragement.  “Know that someone understands your struggle.  Know that someone cares. ”

Over the course 20 years, roughly 1500 children received a brand new pair of athletic shoes or boots from Shoe Santa.

For the first several years of its existence, the man behind the Shoe Santa Project operated anonymously, but in recent years, his identity has been shared publicly in order to encourage other community members to follow his example.  Dr. Phillip Shirley, of Pendleton, is Shoe Santa.  Dr. Shirley says that he was willing to be known for his actions because someone else might learn of the project and, knowing him, say, “Well, if Old Doc Shirley can make a difference, maybe I can do something, too.”