Shoes have become an obsession for people, whether it’s looking for anything to give you an edge competitively, or making sure you have the perfect kicks to snap the eye-catching photo on IG.
Everybody has a shoe now, too — and almost all of those shoes are impossible to get. The secondary shoe market has taken off in recent years, with special edition Nikes or those ugly AF Yeezys going for thousands of dollars over asking price.
Luke Savage wasn’t any different as a young man; obsessed with footwear for as long as he can remember, he used to drag his mom out to wait in hours long lines hoping to get a shot at the newest special edition drop, and when that didn’t quench his hobby, he started designing kicks on the side to make a little extra money.
If that’s where this story ended, it would sound pretty typical, but Luke Savage is anything but a normal shoe-obsessed teen.
A trip to the Dominican Republic turned his shoe obsession into a mission, as he watched kids “run around the baseball diamond in flip flops or shoes that were completely torn to pieces.” Savage had boxes and boxes of old shoes he couldn’t wear anymore; cleats and tennis shoes he had sized out of seemingly overnight as he hit growth spurt after growth spurt as a young man. He had so much excess, and the kids he had watched play in the street in the Dominican — and even those just down the street from where he grew up in North Texas — had nothing. But found a way to play ball anyway.
“Our high school baseball team, we went on two different mission trips to the Dominican Republic. I grew really close to one of the pastors there who is also a coach, and when I came back after my senior year, I just asked him ‘what do you all need?’” Savage’s perspective changed on those two trips, and he was inspired to try and make a difference almost immediately. “It’s pretty life changing to see how much misfortune the kids have down there against how we are blessed here. He said, the thing we need most is shoes.”
That simple conversation started something amazing, as Savage spent most of the next year researching how he could find, collect, and send shoes to a place that had become a big part of his heart. From that research, Blessed Feet was born.
“It struck a chord — I just thought, I have to do something about this,” Savage said. As he realized how great the need was, he thought about how many people were in his situation, “flying through shoes as my feet grew so quickly.” He thought “there have got to be people who just have shoes lying around that aren’t being put to use, so what better way to use them than to give them to kids that actually need them?”
While many people come back from mission trips inspired to do something, as well-intentioned as they might be, the follow through isn’t always there. No one would have blamed Savage if that’s where this story ended: a high school senior preparing to play college ball at a top 15 program while graduating during a pandemic. Not to mention earning a spot in the rotation for a program that was on its way to winning regular season and tournament titles — despite the fact he thought he was redshirting until just moments before his first career collegiate appearance. “I had no idea I was going to start Tuesday until I started warming up on the field. I had to run out and call my parents really quickly — I was super surprised.”
But Luke Savage isn’t most people, and he kept working toward finding a solution to turn his dream into a reality, something he was comfortable doing after suffering an injury his junior year and losing his senior season to COVID-19.
“It took a long time, it definitely took work. But eventually I just committed. Walking around [the Domincan], seeing how much joy these kids have despite not having anything... it was just life changing. These kids need something and they can’t do it on their own — if you can do something, then you’re forced to follow through.”
Luke isn’t having to follow through on his own, though, as he is building a network to help turn his dream into something more. His uncle helped build Blessed Feet’s website, and his high school coach — longtime Prestonwood Christian skipper Mike Maake, who retired this spring — is helping to collect and store shoes until the operation is streamlined. Joel Alexandar, the pastor and coach that first inspired Savage, runs operations on the Dominican Republic side. But Luke isn’t just the outward face of this operation, he’s putting in the time and effort to make sure it gets off the ground.
“I didn’t know how much people would be into this, but we’ve already gotten at least 40 pairs of cleats in.”
If you want to be a part of what Luke is doing, there are three ways you can give:
- If you are in the DFW area, you can arrange to have a BF volunteer pick up your gently used cleats or other gear from your home or office
- You can direct drop or ship in your shoes to:
c/o Mike Maack
6801 W. Park Blvd
Plano, TX 75093
If you don’t have shoes to donate, any monetary donations will go directly to buying new shoes for kids. Donations can be made via PayPal at Savage Kustoms.
There’s an additional, very unique element about Blessed Feet, one that separates it from other organizations. Any donated cleats aren’t only cleaned up — they can be customized. “Five years ago, I started a small business where I would paint shoes for people. What better way to encourage kids than to paint on the shoes, so that when they open them for the first time and they see a cool design or some encouraging words, I think that’s just a super cool thing to do.” Another bonus? Painting shoes is a great way for your son or daughter to pick up community service hours to meet graduation requirements. Currently, shoes that are dropped off can be customized onsite and Luke is working with Prestonwood Christian High School to plan an on campus event and fundraiser where folks can drop off shoes, customize them, and enjoy food and games.
Savage is also hoping to set up a tailgate at football games this fall, and capitalize on the new NIL regulations to use his platform to raise money for this cause. “It’s going to open up so many doors and partnerships without all these old hoops we had to jump through. I think it will make things a lot easier.” Savage is less worried about the downside of the new rules, saying “ultimately, I think it will be a benefit. With things just starting out, there’s going to be a lot of crazy things that happen, but I think it’s going to be really beneficial for college athletes, especially being able to partner with local business and promote them and vice versa.”
So, if you are or know a local business that might what to be a part of what Luke is doing, or if you would maybe want to help Blessed Feet collect cleats at a tailgate this fall, you can contact Luke through the website or on twitter: @lukesavage01.
As for TCU Baseball? Savage seems excited for the future. “I am beyond excited for this year. I think this is going to be the best year that we;’ve had. I am so excited to be working under Coach Saarloos and everybody coming back. Coach Saarloos always talks about family and how important it is to this program, and I know he’s going to continue that. I am just super excited for this season and I know a bunch of the guys on the team are, too.