CORNELIUS – When two SouthLake Christian Academy students volunteered to teach a gym class at Brookstone School in January, they left wanting to do more.

Four months later, sophomores Emily Wakeman and Ashely Rikard created Kicks 4 Kids, an unincorporated nonprofit, to promote health through fitness by providing underprivileged youth with athletic shoes.

Brookstone School, located on the west side of Charlotte, is a nondenominational Christian school severing 103 students in kindergarten through sixth grade. About 85 percent of its students are on free and reduce lunch, according to the school’s website.

“These inner city kids need a way to stay healthy,” Wakeman said. “We want to promote health and fitness for them, and what better way to do that than get them new athletic shoes?”

Kicks 4 Kids is hosting its first 5K run on April 20 to raise money for the endeavor. The race will start at 8 a.m. at Jetton Park in Cornelius.

SouthLake Christian and Brookstone students are no strangers. The schools have partnered for various activities in the past.

“Everyone who goes there falls in love with these kids,” Wakeman said.

The SouthLake sophomores said they were made aware of Brookstone’s need for physical education equipment when they taught the gym class. If more than enough money is raised to buy shoes, the two will buy some simple equipment like basketballs and soccer balls.

So far Wakeman and Rikard have received $5,000 in sponsorships and 40 pairs of shoes donated by athletic companies. They are still in need of $2,000 for 63 more pairs of shoes.

The two will give the Brookstone students the shoes during a field day in June.

Both athletes in soccer, cheerleading, running and swimming, Wakeman and Rikard know the importance of an active lifestyle and want to instill that in youth.

“You give them a pair of tennis shoes, and the doors open up,” Rikard said. “You can do so much more.”

SouthLake teacher Danielle Handlogten said Wakeman and Rikard are leaders among their peers, and their efforts are more than just about shoes.

“This is about reaching the hearts of young individuals for God,” she said. “These shoes are just a stepping stone for the next generation to learn the importance of serving others.”

The two plan to grow Kicks 4 Kids throughout their high school years.

“We started this not to put anything on a college application,” Wakeman said.  “We started this because we have a love for our community and charity and athletics. The whole point of doing this was to encompass all that and do something good for the community, so we definitely don’t want to see it stop in the next two years.”

Want to go?

The Kids 4 Kids 5K will start at 8 a.m. on April 20 at Jetton Park in Cornelius. Registration prior to race day costs $25 for adults and $20 for those 14 and younger. Race day registration costs $30. Register online at queencitytiming.com.