Chanya and Mercedes were on the hunt for matching shoes Tuesday morning. After a long search, the twosome, both 10, found the perfect pair of black tennis shoes, one with pink accents and one with purple. They giggled with excitement.

Chanya turned to the volunteer helping her get the right size and asked, “Hey! You like my new shoes?”

The girls were part of a larger group of about 120 children from Indianapolis-area Salvation Army summer youth programs.

For the last six years, long-time Salvation Army donor Laura Lewis has made sure the children of Indianapolis have new shoes for school. Growing up as an orphan, Lewis never had the luxury of receiving a new pair of shoes as a child.

“I want to empower these children to be successful as they enter the school year,” Lewis, 95, said. “Having a good pair of shoes and the proper school supplies will help with that.”

Throughout Shoe Carnival, the shoe-search frenzy was a happy chaos of laughter. Lewis’ mission of empowering the youth with a simple pair of new shoes showed with the expression of pride on each child’s face as they walked to the cash register with their shoe boxes.

While some children immediately put on their new shoes, others carefully wrapped the new shoes back in the packaging, protecting their new treasure.

Adel, 5, wrote a thank-you card for Lewis. He smiled and showed off his new comic book inspired shoes.

One child told her volunteer that this was the very first time in her life that she had gotten a new pair of shoes.  The Laura Lewis shoe shopping event is often the only time many of the children enrolled in The Salvation Army’s summer youth programs get new shoes.  The impact is lasting.

But shoe shopping isn’t the only back-to-school event. The Salvation Army has once again partnered with Huntington Bank to provide 1,500 backpacks filled with school supplies to Indianapolis Public School students. The Army will also partner with Target Stores again for a back-to-school shopping spree for some local children.

The Salvation Amy sincerely thanks Laura Lewis for her continued support and donations, Shoe Carnival manager Mark Watkins for his help in making the shoe shopping event successful again, Huntington Bank, Target and all our volunteers and staff.

Check out photos from the event here or a short video here.