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IUPUI's Hunter to coach barefoot, send more than 40,000 shoes to needy

INDIANAPOLIS -- For once, Ron Hunter won't be able to stomp, at least not loudly.

Hunter will coach barefoot in IUPUI's game Thursday night against Oakland
University to raise awareness for children in need. His
goal is to send more than 40,000 pairs of shoes to Africa in February, in honor of the
40th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

"If a 5- or 6-year-old kid can walk around their entire
life with no shoes on, then surely, in a warm climate, in a
basketball environment, I can do it," he said. "They may not hear
my stomps like they usually do."

Hunter is working through a Charlotte, N.C., charitable
organization called Samaritan's Feet, which was founded four years
ago by Emmanuel "Manny" Ohonme.

A native of Nigeria, Ohonme received his first pair of shoes at
the age of 9 from an American missionary. He eventually earned a
scholarship to play basketball at Lake Region State College in
North Dakota. His organization's motto: "Give a shoe, change a life."

Samaritan's Feet wants to send 10 million pairs of shoes to
children around the world in 10 years.

Hunter, who appeared on "Mike & Mike in the Morning" and on ESPN First Take, reached the 40,000-pair mark after Converse donated 15,000 pairs Thursday morning. In addition, those wishing to donate online can go to www.samaritansfeet.org.

Hunter said he learned about Samaritan's Feet after a mutual
friend gave his number to Ohonme. Samaritan's Feet came up with the
idea for Hunter to go without shoes.

"They told me the idea, and at first I kind of laughed, because
I thought surely they were joking about that," he said. "But they
weren't."

Then, Hunter remembered a recruiting trip to Lagos, Nigeria,
four years ago, where he saw examples of extreme poverty. That, the
call from Ohonme and prayer were enough to persuade him to go
shoeless for a night.

Hunter told his team about the mission, and it moved freshman
Christian Siakam, who is from Cameroon.

"He said a lot of college athletes, when they get their free
pair of shoes, they take those things for granted. There's so many
kids, including people in his family, that don't have shoes. It's
hitting home with him," Hunter said.

"I knew we were doing the right thing when I saw the look on
his face."

Those attending the game have also been asked to go barefoot,
and Hunter said many IUPUI students said they would.

Hunter said he has accumulated more than 30,000 pairs of shoes.
Many of them have been shipped directly to North Carolina, but the
mission has turned his office into a warehouse. The collection includes a surprise donation he discovered after
practice Tuesday.

"There were 20 bags of new shoes sitting there with a note that
said, 'Coach, hope this helps,' " Hunter said. "I have no idea who
brought those over."

Hunter plans to take the shoes to Africa in July. He's not sure
where he'll go -- he'll leave that to Samaritan's Feet -- but he'd
like to go to Cameroon in honor of Siakam. He said many of his
players want to go with him.

"I was really happy to see the players wanting to help on this
mission," he said.