The power of open-mindedness and awareness can lead to changing the world—and one local boy is continuing his quest to do so.
A 9-year-old Peters Township student read a story about orphans in Haiti playing sports with hockey sticks and baseball bats, but no shoes. Since August 2010, Stephen Shilling has collected and donated 5,554 pairs of shoes—and counting.
The soon-to-be fourth-grader at McMurray Elementary said he came up with the idea of a shoe drive, and on the first day collected 61 pairs of shoes with the help of friends and youth football teammates.
The idea went hand-in-hand with the mission of family friend Sean Casey, former MLB first baseman, Upper St. Clair resident and founder of Casey’s Clubhouse—an organization that raises funds for the Pirates Charities Miracle League of the South Hills.
“Sean had helped with donating items for our youth football gala two years ago, and Stephen was inspired to help others out,” said Shilling’s mother, Megan, who grew up with Casey.
The shoes Shilling collected were distributed all over world—to Haiti, the Clarksburg Mission in West Virginia, Japan, India, Africa, South America and the U.S. Midwest.
“It makes me happy to know I could help them,” Shilling said. “With the help of friends, teammates, my guidance counselor at Pleasant Valley, Superintendent Dr. Nina Zetty, nearby school districts and my interview with Wendy Bell, I worked above my goal.”
Recently, he won a $1,000 Kohl's Care scholarship for his efforts.
Shilling was invited to speak at "A Gift of Hope," a special fundraising event held to benefit the Functional Literacy Ministry of Haiti (FLM-Haiti)—a Pittsburgh-based organization—on Saturday, Aug. 18.
He said the summer coming to an end is bittersweet, but he's excited to reunite with his friends—and make new ones—on the first day of school.
When asked what he wants to be when he grows up, he said: "There are a ton of things. I want to go to the University of Michigan and be a professional athlete—either baseball or football. Or, an engineer."