This first-time gala is also the first time I've heard of a fundraiser in Charlotte where guests are required to not wear shoes. It's a brilliant idea when you understand the backstory.
Called The Barefoot Gala, it's hosted by the Samaritan’s Feet Women Ambassadors. It starts at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 10 at the Marriott City Center uptown. The goal is to raise awareness about children in need here and around the world, but especially in Africa where many children go without shoes.
The Women Ambassadors of Samaritan’s Feet was founded by Tracie Ohonme in 2011 as an extension of the Samaritan's Feet nonprofit her husband Emmanuel Ohonme started in 2003 to inspire hope in those in need by washing their feet, giving them a new pair of shoes and encouraging them to believe their dreams can come true. (Emmanuel's photo is above.)
Here's the story behind Samaritan's Feet: When Emmanuel was 9 and living in Nigeria, a stranger from the U.S. gave him a pair of shoes. He had only owned one pair before that gift - some flip flops that he only wore to school so they would last longer. The rest of the time, he went barefoot. Years passed and he was recruited to play basketball in the U.S. and moved to North Dakota. He studied international relations and economics, married, had children and moved to Charlotte. But along the way, he never forgot the stranger who gave him the luxury of a much-needed pair of shoes. So he and Tracie came up with the idea to find children who were barefoot like he was, wash their feet to show them love and then give them a pair of sneakers.
The goal of the gala is to secure funds to build a school for orphans in Burundi, Africa, and to provide shoes to needy children here and in Africa.
Guests will check their shoes at the door, then enjoy the gala. The evening includes a silent auction ranging from jewelry to art and getaways. The live auction items will have sports fans cheering: A VIP Final Four Experience, and a VIP Superbowl 2013 Experience.
Tonia Bendickson will be the emcee of the evening that features a performance by the Indigenous Drummer Boys of Atlanta, and recognition for Dr. Ophelia Garmon-Brown who'll be honored for her community leadership, support of children's charities and her mission work in Africa.
Tickets are $100 each and a few are still available. Details: www.samaritansfeet.org.
If you can't attend the gala, but still want to offer your support, here's how your monetary donation will help, including buying a brick to build the school:
Uniform & Shoes for One Child …. $30
Buy a Brick … $50
Tuition for One Child for One Year … $100
Outfit a Classroom … $1,000
Build a School … $100,000