What’s on the sole of a shoe says a lot about what’s in the soul of its owner.
“These kids are traveling down such a difficult journey,” Becca Erdahl explained. “People give kids things all the time, but there’s just something special about getting a pair of these custom shoes.”
At Peach’s Neet Feet, a non-profit group based in New Mexico, they believe the value of kindness is nothing unless it is shared with others.
For 2 local families right here in the Inland Northwest, this kindness came in the form of a pair of beautifully designed, custom-made Converse sneakers.
“We work with kids with cancer and other life threatening illnesses and disabilities and use art to celebrate them beyond all the things they’re going through,” Madison “Peaches” Steiner, the founder of Peach’s Neet Feet, explained.
“These kids are traveling down such a difficult journey,” said Erdahl, whose daughter Marleigh had a pink pair of Peach’s Neet Feet shoes. “People give kids things all the time, but there’s just something special about getting these custom shoes that they know are made just for them.”
Erdahl’s daughter Marleigh battled AML leukimia.
“[She was] just the sweetest funniest little girl that you could picture,” Erdahl said. “Happy, fun, and loved to be outside… we went to the park a lot.. and she most often wore her shoes.”
Becca and Marleigh Erdahl met Riley and his mom, Katie, at the hospital.
“Riley has aplastic anemia,” Katie explained. “It’s a bone marrow failure syndrome… dyskeratosis is 1 in a million, and aplastic is 1 in a million and we have both… we do rare really well in our family.”
Riley and Marleigh had what their mom’s called, “a special connection.”
“Our kids were… diagnosed with different illnesses but for some reason they sort of caught each other’s eyes,” Becca Erdahl said.
Their bond was tied tighter when they each got to design a pair of custom sneakers from Peach’s Neet Feet.
Riley’s shoes have mountains to represent the backpacking trips he took with his dad, lots of orange and blue for the Denver Broncos, the aplastic anemia ribbon, and the wings of Hermes because he loves Greek mythology.
“My whole thing was, ok, let’s talk about the future,” Katie said. “What college do you want to go to, what do you want for your future? I really wanted him to have something positive to focus on and the wings of Hermes could take him places.”
Marleigh’s shoes were pretty in pink, with the Little Mermaid painted on the side.
“Marleigh was in ICU and she was really sick at the time,” Becca Erdahl said. “It was a really nice pick me up to get out of ICU and have these really nice fancy new shoes to put on.”
Each pair of sneakers had the same price tag.
“Peach’s asked us to pay it forward,” remembers Katie. “That was the one payment they asked for with the shoes…to pay it forward with kindness.”
So, in the spirit of kindness, Riley and Katie made blankets for other children they met at the hospital. Riley personally picked the fabric for Marleigh’s blanket.
“She always called it her Riley blanket,” said Becca. “It was black and pink with pink hearts and sort of leopard print material, but he had found fabric and specifically made that for Marleigh.”
After battling leukimia for more than a year, Marleigh passed away. Her shoes are still on display in Becca’s home, painting the perfect picture of her personality.
“They’re really special to me,” said Becca. “It was a special part of our journey, and it was a really, really sweet reminder of my girl.”
Riley is still fighting his battle, and even though he outgrew his shoes, they still help him and his family walk down this difficult path.
“I plan on keeping them because they’re still a reminder of the first thing that happened to us that was good,” Riley said.
Katie wears them sometimes too. “There’s a little bit of him walking around on his feet, representing what his heart is,” she said.
“I love looking at those shoes,” said Becca, “and even though Marleigh’s gone now, I still have this constant reminder of great kindness and great love even though we have experienced a great loss.”
Becca recently gave birth to a baby boy, Gil. She told KHQ Marleigh had always wanted a baby brother, and she is confident that Gil will grow up knowing how beautiful and special his big sister was.
Riley just had his 8th bone marrow biopsy. We here at KHQ wanted him to know we are thinking of him, and rooting for him in his fight against aplastic anemia.
The people at Peach’s Neet Feet believe the value of kindness means nothing unless you help spread it to others, so if you’d like to help them spread kindness, you can check out their website here: https://peachsneetfeet.com/