Sneaker style with substance
On June 22, more than 2,000 sneaker enthusiasts from around the country gathered in Northern Ohio for Cleveland's Got Sole. The event celebrated sneaker culture while raising money for the Children's Tumor Foundation. People bought, sold, traded and displayed their rare kicks, and raised more than $23,000 to support research to find a cure for neurofibromatosis, a disease that causes tumors to form on nerve tissue.
Here's a look inside the event, and how a passion for sneakers helped make a difference for those in need.
For love or money
Sneakers on display at Cleveland's Got Sole were more like works of art, with stories and hefty prices behind each pair. The sneakers pictured above, FLOMs (For Love Or Money) are a collaboration between Nike and street artist Futura 2000. The shoe is covered in images of currency from around the world. Only a couple dozen pairs were released to the public, according to reports, and they can sell for $13,000 or more on the resale market.
Sneakers are often connected with certain athletes, like these LeBron X Elites, which increases their popularity and cost. Some collectors make it their life's work to only collect the signature shoes of one athlete.
Back to the future
Pop culture also plays a big part in the design and popularity of sneakers. These Nike Mags or "Marty McFly" sneakers are a tribute to the movie "Back To The Future Part II." In the movie, McFly travels to the year 2015 and receives a pair of advanced, self-lacing kicks. In 2011, Nike released 1,500 of its homage to McFly's shoes on eBay, with all proceeds going to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research. (Fox, of course, played McFly in the movie.) The second version of this shoe will be released in 2015 with self-lacing capabilities.
"I think it's great to bring this sneaker culture off the street and connect it with the charity. It gets that positive connotation back in people's head." -- Alexis Coleman, 24, Akron, Ohio.
Recent years have seen several examples of violence in the sneaker community. High prices and limited supply make for a hostile environment when sneakers are released at local stores. Cleveland's Got Sole wanted to work to combat violence with its fundraising efforts.
Face of the cause
At 17, Amie Petras was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis. Her tumors have caused her to lose some hearing and put her at risk for paralysis. She's had one brain surgery and two spinal surgeries to remove tumors. Petras still runs up to 12 races a year to raise money for Children's Tumor Foundation and is earning her master's degree in special education at Notre Dame College. During Cleveland's Got Sole, Petras and her dad distributed educational information about the foundation.
The first Cleveland's Got Sole was held in the lobby of a Holiday Inn. In six years it graduated to the Quicken Loans Arena, housing sneaker fanatics from across the country for five hours on this June afternoon.
One of a kind
"If I had to use three words to describe the sneaker community, I would use "powerful," "fun," "fashion." I design sneakers for kids to put a smile on their face and I'm so happy this is raising money to save the lives of sick kids." -- Constance Alexander, 28, Cleveland
Profits from ticket sales, exhibition fees and donations helped raise $23,140 for the Children's Tumor Foundation.
Why do it for charity?
"We got sick of traveling to other shows! Also, people normally do these shows to make money and make a living off of it. We wanted to do something to set us apart. By doing it for charity, it brings more people into the fold and that makes the event even better." -- Kevin Kramer, founder of Cleveland's Got Sole
A cause close to home
"I've had cervical cancer twice and had friends that died from cancer so any time I can donate money to find a cure for something I'm down for it." -- Jackie Garcia, 28, Parma Heights, Ohio
"Sneakers are not just cool to rock but you are actually wearing history on your feet." -- Sara Anthony, 21 Columbus, Ohio
Shoes made for walking
"I'd choose sneakers over high heels any day. They are more comfortable," -- Kayhlee Butler, 15, Wheeling, W. Va.
More than a hobby
"Sneakers for some people are their life. When I get dressed I build an outfit from the sneaker up." -- Jackie Garcia