I had the pleasure of attending the David’s Shoes Annual Scholarship Luncheon for male teens and young adults earlier this month. My invite came from my dear friend and fellow Houses on the Moon Theater Company member, Elane Laine. Elaine is the Founder of David’s Shoes Foundation which is a nonprofit whose whole mission is rooted in reducing gun violence among children, teens, and young adults.
They achieve this mission by teaching children to honor and love their own lives so that they can honor and love all life and turn away from a path of violence. As gun violence is a public health epidemic that has systematically impacted so many lives including the victims, survivors, and their families, the work that David’s Shoes does is remarkable and inspiring.
The Event's Mission & Cause
The awards luncheon brought together several young teens and young adult men to recognize their accomplishments and achievements by way of scholarships to assist them in their academic careers. The truly inspirational part of the event was brought about by those who gathered in honor of lives lost and the recognition that through action and advocacy we can change the trajectory of other lives and youth. Keynote speaker, Reverend William Ruhterford III gave a powerful speech focusing on the call to action needed in all communities. This includes demanding more from our community and elected leaders than just catch phases and campaign promises or useless statistics.
Rev. Rutherford II stated, “New Jersey state has some of the most segregated schools in the country. Suburban schools and rural schools don't have the same issues as families in urban schools and communities. Gun violence rates climb as income declines” As the Rev stated this, he also highlighted that poverty and resources are lacking in some urban communities. He went on to point out the inequalities that become present when examining the problem of gun violence and the need to also examine the increasing wealth gap in society present in Black and marginalized communities.
The Harsh Truth & Curating Change
Wealthier communities have less gun violence than poorer ones. Poorer communities have less resources which consequently impacts the quality of their schools and programs for children. Community leaders and elected officials often forget about these communities once they have gained their desired titles. Our leaders always claim more can be done and frequently throw money towards a cause without measurable accountability or any tracking method to see if the proposed solutions have a valuable impact.
It has been proven that it will take numerous methods to address the public health epidemic of gun violence. This includes investing in our youth and their futures. Education is important, however, mentorship is equally important. David’s Shoes provides this and more. It encourages youth to believe in themselves and their dreams and follows them on their journey. This was evident in the program participants that came back to host and present at the Luncheon ceremony.
A community invested in its young people helps to promote unity and empowerment. It fosters strength, resiliency, and a healthy environment for teens to become young men. It is a necessary support system whether you come from a single family or two family home. Youth should be celebrated and encouraged. As a society, we have moved away from the old saying, “It Takes a Village to Raise a Child.” This has never been more true than in today’s society.
Toward the Future
We need more warriors like Elaine who turned her pain into purpose to save a life one young man at a time. Elaine is a visionary who started David’s Shoes recognizing the importance of nurturing our young people at the earliest possible point to teach them that all life is valuable, including their own.
To learn more about the David’s Shoes foundation, or how you can help make a difference in this public health crisis for our children, visit Davidsshoes.org today and revisit our monthly feature where we chat with Elaine Lane more about her mission. It truly will take all of us to do our part to save as many lives and futures possible from being lost to gun violence. As Mother Teres said, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” The health and well being of all children are all of our responsibility and one that we can not afford to keep failing at.