ICAN, a Chandler-based youth program, is introducing a new initiative to ensure that kids returning to school do so with shoes that are not worn and torn. Throughout the month of June, ICAN will be seeking donations for its Kicks for Kids shoe drive, including shoes and socks.

Kicks for Kids will be taking the place of ICAN’s annual Backpack Drive, which was already being imitated by other outside agencies in the area. According to Shelby Pedersen, ICAN’s director of resource development, a group of nonprofit organizations came together and decided to focus on other specific needs of children because the need for backpacks was already being met by other partnerships.

Becky Jackson, ICAN’s chief executive officer, said, “ICAN has identified a growing need for new shoes among youth in the community we serve. The kids wear them out easily and their families often don’t have the resources available to provide a new pair once the shoes are worn and torn.”

According to Pedersen, Kicks for Kids will provide more than 400 pairs of shoes to local youth who otherwise would have ill-fitting or worn footwear. Phoenix Premium Outlets, located at the Loop 202 and Interstate 10 freeways near Ahwatukee, will be participating as a partner on the initiative. Stores such as Famous Footwear Outlet, Reebok, Rockport, Saucony and Sperry Top-Sider will be offering special discounts on purchases throughout this month, benefiting ICAN.

Phoenix Premium Outlets is offering a complimentary VIP Coupon Book to anyone who brings in new shoes as a “thank you.” Donators will also have the opportunity to win a $100 Phoenix Premium Outlets gift card.

“We are delighted to partner with ICAN in this worthy cause and are extremely pleased that so many of our shoe merchants are so generous with their offers,” added Kathy Frederiksen, general manager of Phoenix Premium Outlets.

Pedersen stressed that anyone looking to participate in this drive is encouraged to donate new athletic shoes that are as gender-neutral as possible, and socks should be in their original packaging. Needed shoes include boys and girls, sizes 1-6; men’s sizes 5-11; and women’s sizes 5-9.

Donations can be dropped off through July 1 at: Lon E. Hoeye Youth Center, 650 E. Morelos St., and at the Management Office or Information Center in the Food Court at Phoenix Premium Outlets, 4976 Premium Outlets Way.

For more information about ICAN, call (480) 821-4207 or visit www.icanaz.org.

• Jeremy Bush is a senior at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. He is interning this semester for the AFN.

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