By: Emily Hopcian, TOMS Campus Club Leader at Denison University
Two years ago, I bought my first pair of TOMS prior to leaving for a five-week study abroad in Bath, England. My first day there, another student approached me and asked about my TOMS. She had a pair, too. Conversation took off, and we soon discovered that we were both rising juniors at the same school with a shared passion for TOMS!
Fast forward to August 2011. Together, Chelsea—that’s her name—and I started a TOMS Campus Club at our school, Denison University. To jumpstart our club, we hosted an info table at our school’s involvement fair on a scorching-hot September day. At the fair, some students recognized the TOMS flag hanging in front of our table and ran over to see who we were and what we were doing. Others, who had never heard of TOMS, signed up after we briefed them on the TOMS story, One for One™, and our club. Before the fair, I knew there’d be an interest in a TOMS Campus Club at Denison because I had seen people wearing TOMS on campus before, but I didn’t expect 150 people to sign up!
In November, we hosted our first event: a screening of the TOMS documentary in the Bandersnatch, our campus coffeehouse. Once again, the turnout impressed me. The coffeehouse couches and chairs were packed! As the documentary played, students rolled in to order food from the coffeehouse and ended up staying to watch the film. Chelsea and I were thrilled to see so many interested Denison supporters!
In January, at the beginning of our second semester, we hosted a Start Something That Matters party, the highlight of which was guest speaker and Denison alum, Teckie Shackelford. Teckie graduated from Denison in 1956. After we screened the Start Something That Matters documentary, Teckie spoke about her work with I Know I Can, a non-profit she co-founded in 1988. I Know I Can seeks “to inspire, enable, and support Columbus City Schools students in pursuing and completing a college education.” Following the event, our school blog—TheDEN— published a post about our TOMS Campus Club and the SSTM event.
Our most recent event—a Style Your Sole party—took place on Leap Day. Thirty-four students gathered around tables in our student union to paint, draw, and glue designs onto their TOMS. Leading up to the event, I didn’t know what to expect but bought a bunch of supplies at a local craft store that I thought would inspire participants to get creative and crafty. At the party, someone plugged in her computer and turned on a chill Pandora station. People chatted and laughed, but mostly, the room was quiet—much like a coffeehouse—as everyone styled away.
Now, our club is gearing up for One Day Without Shoes, our final event of the year. To start, we’ll have an info table and Experience the Walk installation in front of our student union. On April 10th, One Day Without Shoes participants will also be asked to “stamp” their footprint (using paint) on a sheet that will be hung in our student union. To wrap up the day, we’ll screen the TOMS documentary at our campus coffeehouse for the second time this year.
We are currently gearing up for the big day. We’ll be using the TOMS Campus Programs DIY Toolkit to inspire and encourage others to go without shoes so that kids don’t have to. We are also trying to collaborate with local business (like the coffeehouse, soup loft, etc.) to offer coupons and extra incentives to students who go without shoes on April 10th.
To students interested in starting a TOMS Campus Club at your school:
I say, “Go for it!” TOMS is incredibly supportive - they make it easy. Go online, register your school/club, and begin to explore the tools and resources that are available to you. Host an info table to tell others about your club, gather e-mail addresses of those interested in joining (you can use the forms provided on the site!), and begin planning your first event. I’d recommend starting with a screening of the TOMS documentary. It’s arguably the easiest event to plan and host. Have fun with it! If you’re a TOMS fan, you know how fun-loving and simple theTOMS movement is. Blend that with your campus climate, and you’re sure to find a group of passionate members who will help jump-start your club.
In all, I’ve learned that TOMS isn’t only about helping children in need; for me, it’s also about community. It’s about individual friendships, like Chelsea and mine; it’s about the larger family of TOMS fans all over the world; and it’s about the communities that we’re helping around the world by supporting TOMS. So, on some level, it’s about our world community. That’s pretty cool.