Kicks4Kids: Ava Flores is helping the homeless in a real way; Pima Athletics and Desert Thunder Softball collected tennis shoes

(Ava Flores Photo)

VENMO= Kicks4KidsTucson

Canyon del Oro freshman Ava Flores is starting up her own charity and it’s a good one. Having coached club softball for almost two decades, I know athletic bags pile up and there’s really not much one can do with an old bat bag but Flores has found a use for them.

Flores plays club ball with the Desert Thunder organization (a club I helped start many years ago) under Chris Basaldua. She plays 16U right now but she has bigger plans beyond the playing fields.

“The idea is by senior year my ‘mission’ or nonprofit will be at its biggest and most effective,” Flores said. “Also my counselor Christopher Hsieh has been my main help and source of guidance with everything about the bag organization so far. The next step would be to evaluate today, which is currently happening, and try to find officers to be a part of the nonprofit.”

The “today” that Flores speaks of was Wednesday morning when her Desert Thunder teammates joined her on a test run where they successfully handed out 25 bags to the homeless downtown.

“They were extremely happy and grateful,” Flores added. “One lady ran up to get a bag for herself and another one for her boyfriend.”

I’m sure, when Flores is ready, we can provide her dozens of used athletic bags for her mission. I’m sure she will be able to find a home for them with the homeless or for young families just starting out with the expense of a bag.

Pima Community College Athletics and Desert Thunder Softball spent the winter season collecting new tennis shoes for Kicks4Kids to great success. Almost 12 dozen pairs of new sneakers were collected. That’s almost $4,000 worth and it adds to our goal of one reaching $1 million in tennis shoes collected.

Kicks4Kids began as a project to provide 500 tennis shoes to my own students at Rio Vista Elementary several years ago but it has grown into a program that has now spread across six school districts with over 17,500 pairs (over $437,500 worth) collected and distributed to low-income students and programs in need. It is the most successful program of its kind.

The program is simple. High school or club sports teams collect one pair of new tennis shoes (kids sizes 12-6) per athlete and the shoes will be delivered to a low-income school in that school’s feeder pattern or to another school in need. If bigger sizes are collected, then we will find a middle school or high school in need but that is not our primary focus. This past spring, I exchanged team photos for sneakers.

Individuals and groups can also contribute, such as the National Elementary Honor Society and Student Council at Painted Sky Elementary. The program collects sneakers for their public service requirement. Also, companies can get involved. For instance, Frog and Firkin collected over $1,000 worth of sneakers last Christmas for Kicks4Kids. Several families have also dropped off shoes at my home.

In addition, all profits from high school team photos and senior photos go towards this program. The shoe bank is located at Rio Vista Elementary. Kicks4Kids is a non-profit entity.


Schools in Kicks4Kids Program (so far)
Acacia Elementary (Vail)
Amphitheater High School (Amphi)
Arizona School for the Deaf and Blind (ASDB)
Blenman Elementary (TUSD)
Booth-Fickett Elementary (TUSD)
Borton Elementary (TUSD)
Butterfield Elementary (Marana)
Calabasas (Rio Rico)
Carillo K-5 (TUSD)
Casa de los Ninos (Program)
Cavett Elementary (TUSD)
Centennial Elementary (Flowing Wells)
C.E. Rose Elementary (TUSD)
Challenger (Sunnyside)
Coronado K-8 (Amphi)
Coyote Trail (Marana)
Cragin Elementary (TUSD)
Davis Elementary (TUSD)
DeGrazia (Marana)
Donaldson Elementary (Amphi)
Doolen Middle School (TUSD)
Drexel (Sunnyside)
Elvira Elementary (Sunnyside)
Erickson Elementary (TUSD)
Flowing Wells High School (Flowing Wells)
Fort Apache Reservation
Gallego Primary (Sunnyside)
Grijalva Elementary (TUSD)
Hendricks Elementary (Flowing Wells)
Holaway Elementary (Amphi)
Holladay Elementary (TUSD)
Hollinger K-8 (TUSD)
Homer Davis Elementary (Flowing Wells)
Hudlow Elementary (TUSD)
Imagine Amphi Preschool (Amphi)
Ironwood (Marana)
Keeling Elementary (Amphi)
Laguna Elementary (Flowing Wells)
Liberty Elementary (Sunnyside)
Lineweaver Elementary (TUSD)
Los Amigos (Sunnyside)
Los Ninos (Sunnyside)
Lynn/Urquides Elementary (TUSD)
Manzo Elementary (TUSD)
Marshall Elementary (TUSD)
Maxwell Elementary (TUSD)
Mexicayotl Academy of Tucson (TUSD)
Miles Elementary (TUSD)
Mission Manor Elementary (Sunnyside)
Mission View Elementary (TUSD)
Nash Elementary (Amphi)
Ochoa Elementary (TUSD)
Ocotillo (Sunnyside)
Oyama Elementary (TUSD)
Pistor Middle Scholl (TUSD)
Prince Elementary (Amphi)
Pueblo Gardens (TUSD)
Quail Run (Marana)
Rattlesnake Ridge (Marana)
Richardson Elementary (Flowing Wells)
Rio Vista Elementary (Amphi)
Roadrunner (Marana)
Roberts/Naylor K-8 (TUSD)
Roskruge K-8 (TUSD)
Santa Clara Elementary (Sunnyside)
Sewell Elementary (TUSD)
Sierra (Sunnyside)
Summit View (Sunnyside)
Sunnyside High School
Tolson Elementary (TUSD)
Tortolita (Marana)
Twin Peaks (Marana)
Walker Elementary (Amphi)
Walter Douglas Elementary (Flowing Wells)
White Elementary (TUSD)
Whitmore Elementary (TUSD)
Wright Elementary (TUSD)


Andy Morales was recognized by the AIA as the top high school reporter in 2014, he was awarded the Ray McNally Award in 2017, a 2019 AZ Education News award winner and he has been a youth, high school and college coach for over 30 years. He was the first in Arizona to write about high school beach volleyball and high school girls wrestling. His own children have won multiple state high school championships and were named to all-state teams. Competing in hockey, basketball, baseball and track & field in high school, his unique perspective can only be found here and on AZPreps365.com. Andy is the Southern Arizona voting member of the Ed Doherty Award, recognizing the top football player in Arizona, and he was named a Local Hero by the Tucson Weekly for 2016. Andy was named an Honorary Flowing Wells Caballero in 2019, became a member of the Sunnyside Los Mezquites Cross Country Hall of Fame in 2021 and he was a member of the Amphi COVID-19 Blue Ribbon Committee and he earned a Distinguished Service Award from Amphitheater. Contact Andy Morales at amoralesmytucson@yahoo.com

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