Nicholas Lowinger of Cranston just wanted to help homeless children get proper footwear, not win awards.
But Lowinger is beginning to realize that when you do something extraordinary, extraordinary things can happen to you.
The 14-year-old founder of the Gotta Have Sole Foundation, a nonprofit that has delivered shoes to thousands of children in homeless shelters, is a winner in this year's Kids Who Give contest.
The national contest, sponsored by Georgia-based snack food company Farm Rich, recognizes young people who have made a difference in the world. And it's just the latest award or recognition given to this young man who took his desire to do good and hit the ground running.
Each week, Huffington Post profiles a person who has done something above and beyond, responds to a sense of duty or shows that there still is hope in humanity. It's an honor reserved for the select few who embody what makes a person truly great.
In the Kids who Give contest, Lowinger is the first place winner this quarter, winning $3,500. The win puts him in the running for a $10,000 grand prize at the end of the year, competing against the other first-place quarterly winners in an online voting competition.
More information about the contest can be found at www.kidswhogive.com
When Lowinger was five, he visited a homeless shelter with his mother and was "dismayed to see that many of the children had shoes that didn't fit, or worse, had no shoes at all," stated a release from when Lowinger .
In his own words, “shoes are rarely donated to shelters,” Lowinger said. "Children missed school because they shared footwear with family members. Others had sores on their feet from ill-fitting shoes."
He donated his shoes but was frustrated because he "didn't have anything that even came close to fitting one small shoeless boy," he said. "When he was searching for a community service project for his bar mitzvah, he decided that every child needed a well-fitting new pair of shoes, and that he would find a way to provide them."
The foundation got off the ground with a Web site, Facebook page and lots of calls to donors and footwear manufacturers for donations. They applied for grants, organized footwear drives at his school and got in touch with local homeless shelters.
Before long, footwear requests started coming in, and Nicholas and his team delivered brand new shoes to children who had never had a pair.
The foundation now has 500 volunteers and has donated new shoes to more than 3,000 homeless and needy children. Most of the shoes go to shelters in Rhode Island but has begun branching out to nearby states and is laced up and ready to expand throughout the country.
“It gives me great personal satisfaction to know that I am helping children have a better life,” Lowinger said.
For more information about Gotta Have Sole, check out their website at