When Wendy and Eric Williams started thinking of ways they could honor the memory of their son Jason Wright, who died in 2018 in a car wreck, one thing came to mind: shoes.
“Shoes became his thing,” Wendy Williams said. “Once he had a job, if he ever had any extra money; that was always on the Christmas list, the birthday list. Gotta get some new shoes.”
This year, the couple founded Kicks for Kids, a shoe drive benefiting students in the College Station school district. Community members are encouraged to donate new tennis shoes of all sizes or make monetary donations to Chrissy’s Closet in memory of Jason to help students get the shoes they need.
As an educator, Wendy Williams said, she understands how important shoes are to a student’s education and how behavioral issues can be the result of nothing more than uncomfortable shoes.
“They can really a barrier to learning if you don’t have shoes that fit,” she said.
Chrissy’s Closet is a free store aimed at helping College Station students and their families who need assistance, and shoes are something the closet needs all year, especially at the beginning of the year, said Chrissy Hester, director of student services at the College Station school district and namesake for Chrissy’s Closet.
“If you feel good about how you look, then you have a good day, and if you don’t, you don’t. So we really try to help everybody as possible have a good day,” she said. “So if they can have a brand new pair of shoes, they’re gonna feel good. So it’s really important for the first day of school. Besides that, they need them. It’s psychologically important, but they also physically need them.”
Eric Williams said he remembers getting Jason his first pair of shoes after he came to live with them at 10 years old. Jason would eventually be adopted by the couple and join their two other children, Lyndon and Autumn.
“He’d never had something like that before; he had shoes, but a good pair,” Eric Williams said. “He was excited about it.”
Shoe options became something their son grew to love, Wendy Williams said.
At one point, when he was 16 or 17, she said, they even had to put a freeze on his shoe purchases; however, he still managed to find a loophole. Instead of buying a pair of shoes for himself, he surprised his mom with a pink pair of Vans for Mother’s Day.
In a letter included with the shoes wishing her a happy Mother’s Day, she said, Jason had written, in part, “I know you don’t want me to get any more shoes right now, so I had the joy to get some for someone special in my life.”
“It really did give him joy to get me some shoes if he couldn’t get them for himself,” she said.
Chrissy’s Closet had not been established when Jason began living with the Williams family.
After Jason’s death in August 2018 at the age of 19, Wendy Williams said, they did not do anything with his possessions, but then slowly began inviting close friends and family to pick some of his shoes that they could enjoy.
“Jason loved life, and these are one of the things he loved to enjoy and to wear. It was like, we can’t keep this stuff in a box. That’s horrible to think about all the memories and the fun and all the things just stuffed in a box rotting forever.”
Kicks for Kids is helping transform July and August into an opportunity to honor their son rather than think so much about the loss of him, Eric Williams said.
“Summer can be bittersweet for us, so this kind of gives us something that we can tangibly do,” Wendy Williams said.
Jason, who played football at A&M Consolidated High School and graduated in 2017, would have been 22 years old on July 8, so they suggested anyone looking to donate money can consider donating $22.
“We’re just very thrilled that they wanted to channel his memory in our direction because we know how important shoes are, and we really just are very touched and honored to have his memory go in the direction of Chrissy’s Closet because we know we will give lots of shoes away that will make lots of children happy,” Hester said. “That we know for sure. We definitely need the shoes; we definitely need the donations, and we’re just elated about it.”
Shoes can be dropped off at Daniel Stark Law Firm, 100 W. William Joel Bryan Parkway in Bryan; Elms Orthodontics, 501 Emerald Parkway in College Station; or Living Hope Church College Station, 4170 Texas 6.
Monetary donations can be made on the CSISD Education Foundation website by selecting Chrissy’s Closet and designating in memory of Jason Wright.