By CHRIS FASOLINO
---- — PLATTSBURGH — There may be more to your old sneakers than meets the eye.
An unusual call for donations has gone out from Butternut Ridge Farm’s popular animal therapy program. They are looking for that kind of footwear.
Thera-Pets, the animal therapy program based at Butternut Ridge Farm in Peru, uses miniature donkeys and other animals to provide comfort for children. The Rev. Dr. Ken Parker explained that the sneakers will indirectly provide funds for the program, while helping others as well.
“There is an organization called Green Sneakers that collects used sneakers, reconditions them and sends them to people who need them in third-world countries,” Parker explained.
Among them are India and countries in Africa and Central America.
Not only can sneakers make life a little easier, but Parker said they can offer protection.
“I’ve heard stories of kids running barefoot and getting parasites on their feet, and there’s the risk from snakes, scorpions and spiders.”
Green Sneakers will pay Thera-Pets 50 cents for every pair of sneakers collected.
“All the money from the sneakers will go to support donkeys for our children’s program,” Parker said.
He described the arrangement as an “all-win situation,” with the sneakers being used to help people in poverty and Thera-Pets receiving some funding for providing them.
“There are a lot of winners and no losers here. And it doesn’t really cost anybody anything except for old sneakers.”
Impeerium Peer Network, a spin-off of the National Alliance on Mental Illness: Champlain Valley, located in Plattsburgh, links some who use its services to Thera-Pets.
The peer-based program supports people who have mental-health issues through a variety of efforts, including a program that involves volunteering with animals.
In visiting the donkeys, alpacas and other animals at Butternut Ridge Farm, Impeerium found out about Green Sneakers.
So Impeerium and NAMI are inviting people to bring their old sneakers to NAMI’s annual meeting, set for 6:30 p.m. today at St. Peter’s Church in Plattsburgh.
The public is invited to the session, which will include a discussion about Impeerium and a presentation by the National Eating Disorders Association.
The local WRAP Photo Program, which creatively uses photography as a form of therapy, will also be highlighted.
And a quilt raffle will be held.
Green Sneakers will only collect shipments of at least 500 pairs of sneakers; as of Saturday, Parker was up to 300.
He is hoping more will be donated at the NAMI meeting.
Funds are needed for Thera-Pets, Parker noted, because their services are always free of charge.
“We never request money (for the therapy services); if we’re going far away, we just ask, can they help us with the mileage?”
Thera-Pets visits local nursing homes and other facilities and, at the farm, offers programs for children with autism spectrum disorders and other issues.
The program also travels — recently, it brought comfort in the form of three miniature donkeys to a preschool and some churches after the tragic shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last year.
“I’ve just been asked this week to return to Newtown, probably right after school starts,” Parker said.
Another visit from the donkeys, he said, will provide “something positive to start the school year.”
Learn more about Thera-Pets and how to donate sneakers at the farm at 643-8295 or go to www.butternutridgedonkeys.org.
Reach NAMI:CV at 561-2685 or go to www.nami-cv.org.