PR students promote ‘Barefoot Coaches’

Basketball coaches across the country are going bare. Barefoot, that is.

Coaches are shedding their shoes for a good cause—Samaritan’s Feet, a nonprofit organization working to provide shoes for those who have none.

According to the Samaritan’s Feet website,, there are 300 million people in the world today without shoes, which leaves them vulnerable to injury and disease. The goal of Samaritan’s feet is to “provide shoes to 10 million of those individuals in the next 10 years.”

This year, the student-run firm of Butler University’s chapter of Public Relations Student Society of America, Rise Innovations, was asked to launch a social media campaign to raise awareness about Samaritan’s Feet’s “Barefoot Coaches” campaign.

“Barefoot Coaches” asks college basketball coaches to coach a game barefoot to raise awareness for Samaritan’s Feet and to get people to donate shoes and money towards the cause.

Barefoot Coaches began with IUPUI basketball coach Ron Hunter who, according to, raised 140,000 pairs of shoes through his efforts. Since Hunter went barefoot for the cause, coaches across the country have joined in to support the campaign, including Butler’s own Brad Stevens.

Ryan Pylipow, senior integrated communications major, said Rise Innovations was contacted last April and asked to launch a social network campaign that would raise awareness about Barefoot Coaches and Samaritan’s Feet.

“They [Samaritan’s Feet] sent an email to the school of journalism seeking help with their social media,” Pylipow said. “Their goals were to create a social media campaign that was almost entirely student-run.”

Pylipow said before meeting with Samaritan’s Feet, he had heard of the organization and knew a little bit about them, but upon meeting with the people directly involved, Pylipow said he fell in love.

“I had no idea how much they benefit those people they reach out to,” Pylipow said.

“They are not simply an organization that gives shoes; they give much more—they give hope.”

Pylipow said the goal was for Rise Innovations to provide Samaritan’s Feet with an “information channel to spread their message.”

Previously, he said, the organization had relied mostly on traditional media, but they felt they needed to use social networking sites to develop a closer relationship with their following and grow their mission.

PRSSA President junior Emily Elliot said Pylipow, along with junior Rachel Gold, created “Barefoot for Bare Feet,” a website designed to inform people about Samaritan’s Feet and encourage them to get involved. They also created a Twitter account and Facebook fan pages.

“When we were first given the proposal for this campaign, we just thought it was going to be something in the Indianapolis area, and we were blown away when we found out it was going to be a national campaign. It’s pretty cool,” Elliot said.

Elliot said as rewarding and exciting as working on the campaign has been. It’s also been a lot of hard work.

“We’re students and we’re also trying to do this firm [Rise Innovations] which is also kind of like a full time job,” Elliot said. “It’s definitely become bigger than we ever thought it would, but it’s great.”

Rise Innovations’s time with the campaign will be coming to an end shortly.

Elliot said all the coaches will be going barefoot in January, around Martin Luther King Day. After that, their last big event will fall in April, when a man who they have been working with will run the Boston Marathon barefoot to spread awareness and raise money for the cause.

Elliot said what’s great is that by being involved with this campaign, Rise Innovations became a somewhat recognized name nationwide, and the firm now has other organizations contacting them for work.

Pylipow said he has loved working with Samaritan’s Feet this semester.

“The best part of working on this campaign is seeing the results of our efforts,” he said.  “Samaritan’s Feet has really adopted Rise Innovations as part of their marketing team, so whenever they receive emails thanking them for shipping or distributing shoes they share those emails with us.

“It’s amazing how such a simple gesture like giving shoes can impact others.”