As the first true threat of snow in 2017 potentially arrives in Indianapolis this weekend, there couldn’t have been better timing for the 12th annual Cold Feet, Warm Shoes and Hats event, hosted by Lids Sports Group and the Indianapolis Colts this year at Wendell Phillips Public School 63.
Lids runs the Colts Pro Shop in Lucas Oil Stadium, and the two organizations also work together to give back to the local community, with this event, which took place on December 5, being one of their largest each year.
“This year is our biggest school,” said Bailee Reynolds, Lids foundation manager, while approximately 500 students streamed into the gym-turned-pop-up-shop for their personalized gift experience.
Genesco, based in Nashville, started hosting this event 28 years ago, and when it acquired Indianapolis-based Lids, the company wanted to spread the holiday cheer even further. At this year’s event, 100 Lids employees volunteered, including members of senior management.
Each child at the school was surprised during the early afternoon with a visit to the gym to get sized—sometimes by a Colts player—for a free pair of new sneakers. Kids also got new knit hats, in styles from solid pink to hats featuring the Colts, Indiana Pacers, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Purdue Boilermakers, and Indiana Hoosiers, much like you would find in a regular Lids store.
Paul Wirth, the school’s principal, was happy to see the smiles on each child’s face as they walked in to find not Santa, but Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett helping students decide on the perfect knit hat.
“A few weeks ago, we received some correspondence from the Lids Foundation about being a potential partner for this in the building,” Wirth says. “It didn’t take but half a second for me to say, ‘Yes, absolutely,’ and we started the wheels moving from there.”
Brissett, who’s experiencing his first holiday season in Indianapolis after being acquired in a trade from the New England Patriots on September 2, knows the importance of giving back and being a solid role model in the community.
“I know when I was growing up, we had some things where you would see older people come back and give back,” Brissett says. “You remember those things as a little kid. And as you mature and get older, that’s one of the things you look forward to when you get in a position to give back. I’m in that position right now.”
The Colts currently have a 3-9 record on the season and have been eliminated from playoff contention within the AFC South Division, but that doesn’t stop team veterans and young players alike from wanting to give back.
The Colts’ starting quarterback was joined at the Lids event by a group of teammates, including safeties Darius Butler and Matthias Farley, long snapper Luke Rhodes, nose tackle Joey Mbu, guard Isaiah Williams, and inside linebackers Anthony Walker and Edwin Jackson—and, of course, Blue, the Colts’ lovable (if sometimes ornery) mascot.
Butler, a nine-year veteran originally from Florida, helped size children’s shoes on this afternoon and will also, as part of his foundation, volunteer Tuesday evening to help at one of the homeless men’s missions in the Indianapolis area.
“To me, this is more important than anything we do on the field,” Butler says. “Being out in the community, being able to touch and interact with people—young people, old people, but especially youth. Giving them role models to come back in their community that they can see and they can touch and have conversations with. You never know how far interactions like this can go.”
Wirth agrees, and couldn’t be more grateful for what Lids and the Colts are providing for his school and the children he attempts to set up for success every day, no matter what background they come from.
“Our students are great kids who have just experienced a lot in their lives,” Wirth says. “Some of the basic resources, those types of things—they just need some support and assistance on that. So this is a great opportunity for them to be able to get some shoes, some socks, some hats and gloves, get some cool Colts gear, especially before the winter season and the holiday season. “
The principal also mentioned that some of the students have likely never been through the process of having their feet measured for shoes, being accustomed to just finding a specific size and grabbing the box off the shelf.
Butler laughed when he was asked if he had ever measured anyone’s feet for shoes prior to this event.
“Never. Not using one of these tools,” Butler said with a smile. “I’m old-school. I just look at the size, feel that toe to see how much room they have to grow, and go from there.”
Reynolds estimates that this program has made an impact on approximately 50,000 kids’ lives over the years, and she looks forward to this event every year for the great opportunities it provides Lids, the Colts and area children in need.
“It’s just a way for both of our organizations to get together and be the leaders in our community and be able to give back in a time of need,” Reynolds says. “The Colts have done it almost every year with us and they’re actually the ones who help us pick the school. Just like for our employees, for the players, it’s a way to be involved in the community and give back.”