Matthew Hampson / Stuff
Bex Gardiner estimates the number of donated boots, over the past two years, to be in the hundreds and “climbing up there” in the thousands.
After leading his son’s rugby team in 2020, Bex Gardiner soon realized that many people in Marlborough couldn’t afford boots for their children.
So she did something about it. And now, well…
“My garage looks like a hoard,” Gardiner said, as she showed the dozens of boots lying around in boxes.
Gardiner said it started when she decided to ask around if anyone had spare rugby boots, or even running shoes he wasn’t using, so she could pass them on. to families in difficulty.
* “Youth friendly” employers helping job seekers connect to the workplace
* Surplus hospital land in Blenheim sold for affordable housing project
* Marlborough mussel farms suspend harvest following toxic algae bloom
“Parents were pulling their kids out of rugby and every kind of sport imaginable because people just weren’t able to afford luxury items like sports equipment,” she said.
“If you have a family of five [or more] …it’s not affordable, especially if you have more than one child playing sports, it’s a worry on people’s minds.
The mother of four then set up the “Koha Shoes” Facebook page.
“I was pretty overwhelmed with all the things that happened, I’m still overwhelmed,” she said.
“This community we live in is so amazing, I’ve had people give me random money and say please use it however you want, so the children in the community received brand new boots.”
When the junior rugby season started at Marlborough earlier this month, Gardiner said coaches showed up and grabbed ‘as many pairs as they could’ but his garage was still full with around 70 pairs of rugby boots.
Over the past two years, Gardiner has estimated the number of donated boots to be in the hundreds and thousands.
“Some of them have been worn for a season, if that. Some of them are brand new.
It wasn’t just rugby boots either, as Gardiner said she received football boots, hockey boots, cricket gear, sportswear and even food.
She said a man dropped her a collection of rugby shirts last week who originally intended to sell them online, but saw the Koha Shoes page and decided to give them to Gardiner to pass on to families in need.
“We are just a little overwhelmed by the generosity of the community. It’s amazing, really, there are great humans in this town.
Gardiner, who “didn’t really like being recognized,” said she started leaving pairs of boots at her front door, so people could try them on and pick them up without having to knock.
“I sometimes have to tell people not to leave their shoes outside the door or someone might pick them up,” she said.
Gardiner wanted to extend a heartfelt thank you to the Marlborough community for their continued generosity and for continuing to donate.
“We just want to keep him alive, we just want to keep him as much as possible.”
People in need of boots or wanting to donate can contact Gardiner through the Koha Shoes Facebook page.
“No discrimination, if you need a hand send me a message,” she said.
Gardiner also wanted to thank Te Pātaka, an organization formed in response to the first Covid lockdown in 2020 which gave whānau in Te Tauihu food, care packages and support as another struggling place whānau in Marlborough could go get help.