a nonprofit organization she founded, Heather Hopkins ’99
provides new shoes and clothes to disadvantaged children.
(Photo courtesy Heather Hopkins ’99)
PROFILE—Heather Hopkins ’99 Making
the first day of school special
Like many new mothers, Heather Hopkins ’99 got her fair
share of advice and anecdotes from her own mother after she gave
birth to her daughter in 2004. “My mom started to tell me
things about her childhood that I didn’t know before,”
she says. “Some of the stories were really upsetting.”
Her mother, who grew up poor in a small, working-class town in
New Hampshire, told Hopkins that she loathed school because she
felt ashamed of her shabby clothes. She felt like a “nobody,”
and some girls made fun of her. The first day of school was particularly
worrisome: “She hated [it] so much that she often spent the
whole summer worrying about it,” Hopkins says.
Inspired by her mother’s memories, in March of 2006 Hopkins
founded My New Red Shoes, a nonprofit organization that provides
underprivileged children in the San Francisco Bay Area with a new
outfit to wear on the first day of school. By August Hopkins had
raised $25,000, benefiting 354 children, half of whom live in homeless
shelters. Donors, including individuals, foundations, corporate
sponsors, and churches, gave new clothing and shoes or money in
the form of gift cards to stores such as Old Navy, The Gap, and
Banana Republic. My New Red Shoes distributed the items through
social service agencies.
A 16-year-old homeless boy told Hopkins that the new clothes helped
him look forward to school because he could feel “like just
another kid” instead of standing out as disadvantaged. “That’s
exactly how my mother wanted to feel,” says Hopkins.
Next fall, Hopkins aims to reach a thousand children in the Bay
Area. Giving clothes may seem like a small gesture, but Hopkins
remains committed to changing the first day of school for these
children. “If someone had given me school clothes for my first
day,” Hopkins’ mother told her, “I would have
remembered it for the rest of my life.”
By Nicole Oncina ’05
Nicole Oncina ’05 is a writer at the architecture firm Skidmore,
Owings & Merrill in San Francisco.